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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Everyone's a Winner

Everyone's a Winner

More than 100 young hopefuls, some who had trained for several years, gathered at

the National Stadium on Aug. 28-29 to vie for a spot in the National Gymnastics Federation.

After four hours of heated competition the judges made their decision: All the contestants

were qualified, although, Tep Kreth Sasna, general manager of the federation, noted

some would need some more training. The best contestants also received awards.

The Khmer Gymnastics Federation was revived in 1980 after a five-year hiatus caused

by the upheaval of the Khmer Rouge years.

The first students practiced on hand-made equipment but many of these quit the sport

to join the National Circus Company just as they were coming into their physical

prime.

In 1986, the Khmer Gymnastics Federation was upgraded to become the national federation.

The former Soviet Union provided facilities and Bulgaria sent coaches over the next

two years, but since then no more foreign support has been made available.

World Concern assisted in making an appeal to raise money to buy new mats and equipment

to replace the old which are now in a state of disrepair.

According to Madam Sasna, who also coaches at the National Stadium Gymnasium, about

50 small boys and girls, in addition to those who took part in the recent trials,

are being trained to be future gymnasts. About 30 of them are completely dependent

on the coaches and trainers for sports clothes and food while training because their

families were too poor to support them.

"We're spending our own money earned from part-time careers to buy something

for the poorest kids to eat so that they have enough energy to work at the gymnasium

for the whole morning and afternoon,'' Sasna said, adding that she is now trying

to find support from members of the public who are willing to help these small kids

and the national gymnasium. She said members of the public who have something to

donate can come directly to the National Stadium Gymnasium and contact her.

Some agencies and companies have provided money and facilities in response to her

appeal. The Marlboro cigarette company has given U.S. $1,000, Malaysia Airlines $350,

the Australian Catholic Church $62, the Gal Ireland $ 60, U.N.-ONI some chairs with

a total worth of $40, the World Trade $30, and Concern's Callum Durward $20 and Trishatur

14 gymnastic catalogues.

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