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Archers try to stay on target


Numbers are down significantly for this year’s National Archery Championship, with the federation struggling to finance competitions and training for archers

THE National Archery Championship 2009 began Tuesday morning on the football field at Olympic Stadium. A modest opening ceremony officially opened the event, failing to attract the spectator numbers and big-name dignitaries of other more popular sports such as football or boxing.

According to a letter signed Monday by Im Sethy, minister of education, youth and sport, about 50 officials from different sports committees were nominated to organise the championship, but many were absent from Tuesday’s proceedings. Indeed, competitors themselves were recruited at the last minute to help record the scores.

Kong Deap, national coach and member of the Archery Federation of Cambodia (AFC), said the number of participants has decreased by more than half of those at the previous tournament. “Last year, there were more than 200 athletes,” he stated. “But this year, only about 90 athletes from eight clubs are participating.”

Kong Deap said the low number was because of many archers being too busy with studies to attend, adding that the federation cannot afford to organise a larger event.

“Apart from the budget from the Ministry of Education, we have nothing else,” bemoaned the coach. “Before, our chairman and also Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith helped us a lot, but now he is busy with his work in the government. Our situation is difficult.”

Kong Deap also noted that equipment such as arrows, targets and especially bows were donated a while ago by Singaporean and South Korean partners. “We don’t have money to buy a bow costing about US$1,000,” he said. “We can’t do anything without sponsorship.”

The national coach explained that because archery involves an element of danger, it is difficult to find a safe place for training. A space near the Olympic Stadium complex swimming pool is suitable but cannot be guaranteed as a permanent site for archers intending to train for international events, he said.

The national championship, which will be held each morning this week until Saturday, is divided into three categories: men’s singles, women’s singles, and group. Men’s and group archers fire from 60 metres, while the women’s event sets up from 50 metres.

However, a special competition arranged for the final day will see Khun Sopheap from Khan Meanchey Club, Choun Amarin from Vireak Rin Club, Choeuk Long from Ta Khlaing Moeung Club and Vann Nary from Santepheap Club take aim from 70 metres, with the top three chosen to represent Cambodia at the 25th SEA Games in Laos in December.

Despite failing to capture any medals in the last two SEA Games, Cambodia’s top-scoring archer, Khun Sopheap, 26, remains optimistic. “If I’m selected for the upcoming SEA Games, I’ll do my best to get the best result,” he said. “The last two games in Vietnam and in Thailand were good experiences. I’ve found that my performance has improved a lot.”

However, Choun Amarin expressed his concerns for the future of the sport in Cambodia. “Actually, we have only five standard bows,” he divulged. “We will have great difficulty if they break, because our federation doesn’t have enough money to buy [new ones].”

Tournament officials couldn’t confirm the prize money available to winners of this year’s championship. “Last year, the singles champions received 150,000 riels [US$36] each, and 450,000 riels for [the winning] group,” remembered one competitor. “I don’t know more.”

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