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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Canoe team blames lack of medals on lack of money

Canoe team blames lack of medals on lack of money

Heng Chivoan

Bronze medal winner Puth Chandara, third from left, says the government should organize a good canoe federation, build proper training places, establish canoe training in all provinces and cities throughout Cambodia, and have thorough competition to find the strongest team.

Cambodia's canoe-kayak officials, coaches and trainees have blamed the squad's recent

poor performances on old boats and the lack of a proper place to practice.

"What we mostly need is having proper places and modern materials for canoe

training," Meas Sarin, secretary-general of the Cambodian Canoe-Rowing and Traditional

Boat Race Federation, told the Post.

Cambodia has been participating in international canoe-kayak competitions since 1998.

The national team won two bronze medals when it first went to compete at the South-East

Asian (SEA) Canoe Championships in 2002 in Thailand, Sarin said.

Since Thailand, canoe-kayak teams have competed in the SEA Games in Vietnam and the

Philippines, and in competitions in Japan, Malaysia and China, but without winning

any more medals.

Srun Leang, canoe-kayak coach, said for the team to succeed, it is important to have

modern boats and proper places to train.

"In canoe training, we need a place that has still water [not fast-flowing],"

Leang said. "But at present we do not have a proper place to train - we train

on the upper Mekong River."

Sarin said the federation had its eye on a couple of suitable locations, but had

no money for them.

"So far, I have already found two locations to develop to become places for

canoe training - one in Kampot along the Teak Chhou River and the other in Kandal

province," he said. "But I have received no money yet and I have to just

wait and see.

"We need at least half a million dollars to build canoe training places in Kampot

and Kandal."

Puth Chandara, 21, who won a bronze medal at canoe-racing in Thailand in 2002, and

has competed in numerous countries since then, said all countries he went to - Thailand,

Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and China - had excellent training locations.

Sarin said another problem besetting the federation is the poor quality of canoes

and kayaks. Trainees are using 16 old, donated boats - 12 of them given by the International

Canoe Federation (ICF) in 1998.

He said since 1998, about $20,000 of the state budget for international athletic

competition has been spent on training the canoe-kayak teams and taking them to compete

in other countries. According to Sarin, each of the 280 trainers and athletes gets

a monthly stipend of 120,000 riel, as well as a daily meal allowance from the Ministry

of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS).

But so far the government has not allocated any budget for buying new boats, Sarin

said.

Coach Srun Leang, says for the team to succeed, it is important to have modern boats and proper places to train.

Leang said team members had to train in their old canoes and kayaks. Then, when they

went to compete in foreign countries, they borrowed modern, smaller and lighter boats

that they were unaccustomed to and had difficulty handling.

"This is the big problem that makes our trainees lose when they go to compete

with others," Leang said. "Other countries use modern boats and our trainees

are not used to them."

Chandara said, "I was used to using our canoes that are big and heavy, then

when I compete overseas using the small and light canoe it is easy to capsize and

sink."

Chandara said that to strengthen canoe-kayak racing, the Cambodian government should

organize a good canoe federation, build proper training places, establish canoe training

in all provinces and cities throughout Cambodia, and have thorough competition to

find the strongest team.

Sarin likewise said that he was trying to move the sport forward so that eventually

there would be canoe training throughout Cambodia and competition both locally and

internationally. He said canoeing could add an additional attraction to the country's

tourism industry.

"Lots more tourists will come to visit Cambodia when we have canoes for them

to tour in, because they like this kind of boat," he said.

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