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Villagers show their talents on TV

Intrepid bike rider Ing Kakada is interviewed by Sok Somnang. Photo by: ROTH MEAS

AFTER more than two hours on the road, members of the Apsara TV crew are hoping their journey will be worthwhile.

They’ve travelled more than 120 kilometres from Phnom Penh down to Kampot province, where 17-year-old student Ing Kakada wants to show them just what he can do.

Talent lurks everywhere in Cambodia, even here in the countryside of Ta Pol village in Snay Anhchit commune, Chomkiri district.

Ing Kakada wants to show off the skill he’s learned over the past two years – riding his bicycle backwards. The Hun Sen Ang Chok High School student has risked broken bones, many accidents and spills to perfect his technique.

He’s written to the producers of Sunday-night show House Number 11 asking them to come and film him perform.

People all over Cambodia call producer and presenter Sok Somnang to tell them about their talents and ask him to send a film crew for the 30-minute weekly show, which has run on Apsara TV since the station was founded in 1996.

“Some Cambodian people possess marvellous, magical or weird talents, and our TV programme helps to promote their skills to people across the whole country,” says Sok Somnang.

Previous shows have featured a man who managed to catch a giant fish from the Mekong using only his bare hands, a man who could lift an entire oxcart by himself, a villager who could swallow razor blades and them bring them back up without harming himself, and a man who walked over a bed of burning coals.

As soon as the TV truck arrives in Ta Pol village, friends, family and passers-by gather to see Ing Kakada showing off his amazing skills. Though most have seen him riding his bike backwards before, they still want to see how he’ll perform in front of the TV cameras.

The teenager sits astride the saddle facing the rear wheel, his arms reaching backwards to steer the handlebars while his legs pump the pedals.

But his efforts are not exciting enough for presenter Sok Somnang, 36. After a discussion with his cameraman, he suggests a passenger might make the feat look more difficult. Fellow student Lor Veasna, 14, steps forward into the range of the TV cameras to try balancing on the back carrier while Ing Kakada wobbles off down the road.

Sok Somnang warns viewers: “Though our programme shows the marvellous magical or weird talents of people, we never encourage viewers to imitate the stunts at home.”

After a while, the young passenger leaps off the bike in fright. “I was very scared that he’d fall down and I’d get hurt because I have never seen anybody doing like this before,” says Lor Veasna after he regains the ground.

Ing Kakada explains how he trained himself to ride a bike backwards. “At first I fell loads of times, and even got wounded. Most of the time I practise at my house, and people often come to watch me ride a bike in this style.”

However, Sok Somnang still insists Ing Kakada show something more to make a better program.

Then the teenager offers to perform the feat on his Honda Super Cub motorbike, after the crew moves to film him on a wider road nearby.

After starting the engine, he sits backwards on the saddle, propping his feet on the footrests as he steers it straight behind him.

“To ride a motorcycle backwards is a bit harder than to ride on the bicycle because I have to pay a lot of attention on controlling both the engine and the brakes. I think I’m pretty skillful on the motorbike right now, so I’m not afraid of getting hurt.”

The show airs Sunday nights at 8pm on Apsara TV.

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