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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian trio carry Youth Olympic hopes

French-Cambodian Sokha Panha Viriyak trains at the Olympic Stadium
French-Cambodian Sokha Panha Viriyak trains at the Olympic Stadium. She is one of three representing the Kingdom in Nanjing. Sreng Meng Srun

Cambodian trio carry Youth Olympic hopes

French-Cambodian teenager Sokha Panha Viriyak Vatey, competing in the women’s 100 metres, carries the Kingdom’s medal hopes with her alongside female wrestler Dorn Srey Mao and swimmer Cheng Sopha in the ensuing Second Summer Youth Olympic Games in the Chinese city of Nanjing from August 16 to 28.

The 16-year-old sprinter is going through intense training under coach Lak Loch, who will accompany Vatey on the trip to her first big-stage competition.

“I am really excited. I am training as hard as I can, and I want to do well in Nanjing”, an enthusiastic Vatey told the Post yesterday.

As a 6-year-old, Vatey took a strong liking for gymnastics and held on to the magical bars for the next eight years before switching her affections to athletics.

The slight-framed Vatey, whose father is French and mother Cambodian, has achieved, in under two years on the track, a personal best of 12.3 seconds, which is a hugely encouraging indication of potential.

“I am confident if I train hard the timing can be improved” said Vatey, indicating that she is determined to pursue her athletics career along with her academic interests.

“Vatey is very young and inexperienced, but we can clearly see potential in her and this experience will help her in a big way” secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.

A well-regarded name in women’s wrestling, Chov Sotheara will assume the role of a coach for Dorn Srey Mao, who has shown a lot of promise on the mat.

Swimmer Cheng Sopha will have by his side coach Hem Kiry in Nanjing where the three Cambodian contenders will be aspiring to emulate the heroics of Sam Sothea, who won a girls 44-kilogram class judo bronze medal in the inaugural games four years ago.

Heading the Cambodian Contingent as the Chef de Mission will be Nhan Sokvisal.

The Nanjing Youth Olympics is restricted to athletes born between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 1998.

As many as 3,600 athletes from 200 countries are expected to take part in 222 events involving 28 disciplines. The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, will compete under the Olympic flag for the first time.

Hosts China head the list of competitors with 142 athletes, while Brazil has the second largest squad at 98.

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