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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Olympics: a family affair

Olympics: a family affair

Olympics.jpg
Olympics.jpg

The final four who will live the Olympic dream this summer has been announced

by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia. Runners Phouk Sopheap and Sou Titlinda

will be joined by swimmers Kep Sivan and Hem Kiri in Athens this August. James Watson

and Sam Rith spoke to three former Olympians to find out what will be in store for

the quartet taking part in the world's biggest sporting jamboree.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Hem Thom stands with his children Hem Rasmey and Hem Lumphat in front of their collection of trophies and souvenirs from competitions around the world.

WHATEVER Hem Thom's secret is, most of Cambodia should be hoping he shares it.

The retired physical education teacher has fathered three swimmers who have represented

their nation in the Olympic Games.

In 1996 Hem Rasmey became one of the country's youngest ever internationals when

she swam in the 50 meters freestyle and 200 meters medley aged just 14. She went

on to appear in the Sydney Olympics of 2000 as well.

Her brother Hem Lumphat swam in the male equivalents at the same event.

And now their younger brother Hem Kiri will continue the family line this summer.

Thom, who counts marathon runner To Rithya among his former students, said: "I

lived near the Olympic Stadium and my children went swimming every day since they

were about six, I wanted them to become famous sports stars.

"To see them take part in the Olympics was a dream come true."

When Hem Rasmey, 22, went to Atlanta as a teenager she said she was overwhelmed by

the experience of leaving Cambodia and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Russian

gold medal winning swimmer Alexander Popov.

"Cambodian people living in the United States were very kind to me. It was the

first time I had left the country and they visited us to motivate us and cook Khmer

food, they even grew Cambodian vegetables there," she said. "I tried a

McDonalds and it was okay, but what I really wanted was Khmer food.

"Sydney was my favorite games. I came last in Atlanta but in Sydney I finished

fifth out of eight in my heat, so I felt better."

Older brother Lumphat, 31, said: "I felt happy to represent my country and have

a chance to learn from better swimmers.

"But Cambodian people are not as strong as athletes from other countries.

"They have enough food to eat and far better training facilities; they are on

a different level to us. Our government needs to give us the kind of support other

countries give their athletes."

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