Cambodia’s seasoned long distance runner Hem Bunting has been shockingly left out of the national squad setting out for November’s 26th SEA Games in Indonesia.
The 2007 SEA Games marathon silver medalist and winner of two international half marathons run on home soil in the past ten months was in the dock for his unruly behaviour during the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year. The stigma has stuck with him ever since.
According to knowledgeable sources at the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, the latest upheaval was triggered by a letter purportedly written by Hem Bunting to the Cambodian Amateur Athletics Federation (KAAF) withdrawing his membership.
The sources indicated that Hem Bunting hinted at rejoining the Federation at a later stage next year.
“It is up to the athletics federation to make the choice and they have decided not to select him. We know he is a medal prospect,” NOCC Secretary General Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.
“If the Federation picks him and he mends himself, we are still prepared to take him back,” he said.
But however good an athlete is, indiscipline can not be condoned and Hem Bunting’s record hasn’t been good.
“He is capable. There have been numerous infractions and his irrational behaviour is his own enemy,” the Secretary added.
Hem Bunting, who won a silver medal in the marathon and a bronze in the 5,000 metres at the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand as well as marathon bronze at the 2009 edition in Laos, has had serious brushes with officials on matters of discipline at various stages of his career.
As a case in point, KAAF Secretary General Pen Vuthy highlights Hem Bunting’s recent visit to Australia, which was made without the federation’s sanction, for the City To Surf event in Perth a month ago.
But the decorated runner said he would be “terribly disappointed” if he were to miss out on this year’s SEA Games.
“I have worked so hard to bring glory to my country. I am shocked and I am sad,” Bunting told the Post yesterday after being informed of the Federation’s decision.
In another development, the athletics federation has also dismissed the claims of female marathon runner Ly Nary for a place in the national team bound for Indonesia.
“She is not a member of the Federation and so she has not been considered,” said Pen Vuthy.
The 39-year-old Ly Nary, who has grown steadily over the years as a passionate and competitive distance runner with appearances in several major international marathons such as Boston and Paris, has set her sights on a spot in the 2012 London Olympics. Having hoped to earn that passage through SEA Games qualification, she has now been dealt a double blow.
Ly Nary claimed she had enjoyed national team status the previous year, and cited a lack of coordination between KAAF officials and the elite athletes for their surprise omission.
“Siem Reap-based NGO Hearts of Gold, who organise the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, have found a sponsor for myself and Hem Bunting. Since August they have been trying to have an appointment with Mr Pen Vuthy so that all the parties can meet together. But he has been putting off the meeting again and again saying he is busy,” Ly Nary said, clearly frustrated.
Will the KAAF change its stance on Hem Bunting and Ly Nary for the London event? The Federation is not willing to join that debate yet.