Cambodia’s Sovan Kiri lived up to his name in the Shorinji Kempo arena yesterday by winning the men’s 65kg randori (free sparring) gold at the 26th SEA Games in Jakarta to boost the bullion haul to four, the best the Kingdom has seen in the last 16 years and surpassing the three recorded at the 2009 Laos edition. The highest gold-medal tally of 17 goes a long way back to 1973, but after nearly three decades of political turmoil, civil war and genocide in the intervening years, Cambodia came out of SEA Games isolation in 1995.
It was a gold-letter day for Sovan Kiri, whose name roughly translates to Golden Mountain, as he scripted a new high in a sport that is gaining popularity in the Kingdom.
He ended his blazing trail with a merited victory over Khonesavanh Sounda, of Laos, in the final.
On the way up, Sovan Kiri easily dealt with Indonesia’s Nyoman Sudarmawan in the semifinals.
In another of the less glamorous martial-arts forms yesterday, Veng Vireak grabbed a bronze medal in the Wushu men’s 60kg sanshou category after losing his semifinal clash with Hoxay Aphaylath of Laos.
Cambodia had scooped seven Shorinji Kempo medals – one silver and six bronze – at the Ciracas Sport Hall earlier during the weekend.
A grand display of power and precision saw 25-year-old Sovan Rachana scythe through the early opposition, but in a tight and well contested 57kg randori female final, she came up against a solid performance from Indonesia’s Ligar Nur Lailah.
The host nation’s kenshi picked up the coveted gold and pushed the Cambodian girl to the silver medal position.
Sovan Rachana came close to another big success in the mixed kumi embu (artistic) pair kyu kensri, but she and her partner Kong Savorn could only manage a bronze medal in the end after raising hopes of a better finish.
For his part, Kong Savorn also came out of the men’s 55kg randori event with a bronze. Other Cambodian randori bronze medal winners included Sovan Ratanak (women’s 45kg), Branom Channary (women’s 48kg), Phat Saren (men’s 50kg) and Un Sovannara (men’s 70kg).
Meanwhile, in the co-hosting city of Palembang, the Kingdom’s last standing wrestler, Chea Chong, went out in the quarterfinals to Vietnam’s Nguyen The Anh.
Cambodian tennis had to rest content with just a men’s team bronze medal as the mixed doubles pair of Bun Kenny and Andrea Ka Daravy were shown the door by the Indonesian pair of Grace Sari Ysidora and Aditya Harry Sason 6-3, 6-3 in Friday’s quarterfinals. Earlier, both Bun Kenny and Andrea Ka had gone out of their singles quarterfinal matches.
Disappointment also lay in store for the Kingdom’s oarsmen when they lined up in the men’s 20+1+1 Traditional Boat race over 1,000 metres.
After being completely outpaced, the Cambodian boat finished last of five teams with a timing of 4:06.30. Myanmar won the gold, with Indonesia grabbing silver and the Philippines bronze.
Myanmar went on to grab an incredible sweep of six golds from events at the Cipule Regatta Course on Lake Sunter, in West Java, with the Philippines forcing their only silver in the men’s 20+1+1 500m class.
The remaining two races – men’s and women’s 20+1+1 2,000m – will round off the boating competition today.
On the basketball court of Jakarta’s Britama Arena, Cambodia claimed seventh place by winning their only game of the tournament against Myanmar on Friday.