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Cambodia’s lone Paralympian fails in first heat

Van Vun, Cambodia’s lone competitor at the Rio 2016 Paralympics in Brazil, failed to get past Heat 3 of the Men’s 100 metres T54 wheelchair dash, finishing sixth out of seven contenders in a time of 15.44 seconds.

The 30-year-old, who took the region by storm winning the 100m, 200m and 400m in the T53 category at the 2013 ASEAN Paragames in Myanmar to announce his arrival, found the step up in class hard to handle.

Van Vun, who carried the Cambodian flag at the opening ceremony, made it to Rio as an International Paralympic Committee wild card after a frustrating four-year wait following a registration dispute that had deprived him of a chance to compete in the 2012 London Paralympics.

The Kandal native has been afflicted with polio since he was 3.

The men’s 100m T54 final was claimed by Finland’s Tahti Leo Pekka in a time of 13.90, ahead of China’s Liu Yang in 14.23 with Van Weeghel Kenny of the Netherlands fractionally behind in third place.

Confined to a wheelchair at a young age, Van Vun pursued athletics with great vigour and began wheelchair racing nine years ago.

A breakout silver medal-winning performance in the ASEAN Paragames of 2011 in Indonesia marked him out as a potential force in the region and he produced stunning proof of that by winning all five of the events he took part in in the next edition of the games in Myanmar two years later.

Stepping up to the T54 class, Van Vun brought home a bronze medal from the Singapore Paragames last year.

While failing to make the final may have come as a great disappointment for Van Vun, Cambodia’s most successful para-athlete is counting on the unforgettable Paralympics experience as a great blessing for his future.

Before the event, the athlete said: “I want all Cambodians to support the Paralympians of the country the same way they support athletes in the Summer Olympics.”

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