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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Athletes proud... but not expecting gold

Athletes proud... but not expecting gold

C AMBODIA'S South East Asian Games reps were - for sportspeople - happily pessimistic

about their chances at Chiang Mai, Thailand, but proud of their place in history,

nonetheless.

This was the first time that the ten-member "family" of South East Asian

nations had been together for the games, deputy director of the Sport Department

Prum Bunyee reminded the 51 athletes.

Cambodia is expected to be the minnows in all areas of competition. Early results

from the national soccer team - successive losses of 0-10, 0-4 and 0-9 - might well

set the pattern.

However, there is plenty of incentive to do well.

Before the team left, Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he would give

$10,000 to whomever won an individual gold medal; and $6,000 for a silver and $3,000

for a bronze. Team medals will cost Ranariddh $25,000, $15,000 and $6,000, depending

on the color.

The pundits were looking at some athletes to perform well. Team spokesman Nouv Sovathero

singled out judo, volleyball, boxing, gymnastics and swimming to be the strongest

Cambodian events of the ten-event tournament. But those same athletes told the Post

that no, things were really stacked against them.

Fancied swimmer Hem Lum Phan, 21, said he was "not nervous at all" and

that he "hoped and wished to win," but that the competition would be fierce.

Phan, whose father was a well-known swimmer and his mother a gymnast, won two medals

in seven swimming meets in Korea recently. He has trained in Korea for the past 19

months.

However, back in Phnom Penh his training facilities are poor, and there was a lack

of equipment. But "it is not important to compete for the money, what we want

is to stimulate [Cambodia's] national honor and reputation," he said.

"We also want to urge our team on and surprise the international audience."

Gymnast Im Sam Art was mentioned by team coaches and singled out by Ranariddh as

a firm title chance. He said: "I don't hope to win."

He said gymnasts need regular practise and that he hadn't trained for some time since

arriving back from a meet in Korea.

Sam Art, a Funcinpec policeman, also demoaned the lack of facilities in Phnom Penh.

His gymnast partner, Lun Soriya, 14, was too shy to talk about her club form when

she won gold medals, or about her chances in Thailand. Her father said that Soriya

sometimes skipped school to practise her sport.

Director of Cambodia's Olympic Committee, Pou Sothirak, said that winning or losing

wasn't important, but what was most pleasing was that Cambodia was finally competing.

Cambodia had spent about $200,000 preparing the team - complete with red, yellow

and black patterned raw silk blazers - and other donors had chipped in $260,000.

All the Cambodian athletes are coached by Koreans. The only exception is the volleyball

team, which is coached by Chinese trainers.

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