Cambodia’s top sports administrator Vath Chamroeun is hopeful that the country’s clamouring for a medal of any colour may well produce its desired impact in Friday’s taekwondo quarter-final fights involving the irrepressible Sorn sisters, Seavmey and Davin.
“They are one win away from a medal and this is as close as we can get after wrestler Ngoun Makara went out in the last eight [on Monday]. We know the burden of expectation is weighing heavily on them. We are trying to keep them focused and we are eagerly waiting for that moment of glory,” said Vath Chamroeun, the secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, setting out his perspective in an email to the Post on Cambodia’s campaign so far at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
An Olympic wrestler in the early ’90s, Vath Chamroeun is into his second term in office, but his vision of the future stretches way ahead to 2023 when Cambodia will host for the first time the SEA Games, of which it was one of the five founding members.
“I must commend Incheon for putting together a great event. It is a good learning process for Cambodia as we set our sights on hosting the SEA Games,” he said.
On Cambodia’s performances so far in tennis, beach volleyball, wrestling, swimming and one event in athletics, the NOCC secretary-general felt that disappointing as they may sound, there was nothing to be disheartened about.
“I feel that the emphasis should be on the distance we have travelled to get this far after missing the games for 20 years and spending another decade rebuilding. Overall, we have not really done badly because our athletes are competing with others, which means that they are no longer mere participants but contenders.
“We do need a long-term sports policy and sound strategy to raise our competitiveness. That will be our priority – to put the valuable lessons we have learnt here to good use.”
“Mam Phalkun won his singles first round and with Andrea Ka made it to the second round of the mixed doubles; the beach volleyball players won one of the three matches they played; Ngoun Makara lost to an experienced wrestler and I hope Hem Bunting and Neko Hiroshi perform well in [Friday’s] marathon,” he added.
One unfortunate event Vath Chamroeun noted was the the fate that befell soft tennis player Yi Sophany, who was disqualified from the Games after traces of a prohibited substance was found in her sample.
“It is important to note that the substance found was not a drug but a special stimulant, so there was no mala fide intention on the part of the athlete,” said the NOCC secretary.
“We now know that she was taking the medication to lose weight. There are so many banned substances listed by the World Anti Doping Agency. They are not easy for Cambodian athletes to know because these lists of names are not in Cambodian.
“Besides, it is hard for our athletes to figure out some of these over-the-counter medications. The solution is for our athletes to seek medical advice before they do something like this on their own and our duty is to fully educate our athletes and evolve a sound mechanism to prevent such cases.”
Benefits from sidelines
While the Cambodian athletes have been busy on the field of play Vath Chamroeun, along with NOCC president Thong Khon and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports representative Ouk Sethycheat, have been engaged in several fruitful discussions with other delegations to create a network that would help Cambodia build on its capacity.
Several International Olympic Committee partners and sponsors made presentations during a summit on September 21, opening up an opportunity for NOCs to seek support for their own programs.
The OCA General Assembly and the Partnership Summit provided an excellent platform for Cambodia to integrate with other NOCs as Siem Reap prepares to host the annual OCA gathering in 2016.