Cambodia’s first ever female marathon runner in an Olympics, Nary Ly, finished 133rd among 157 entries in the energy-sapping 26 mile, 385 yard (42.195 kilometre) run. But the 44-year-old research scientist took great pride in finishing a race that 24 other athletes failed to complete in the hot conditions.
With a Cambodian flag around her, Ly crossed the finish line in 3hours 20mins and 20 secs to a rousing ovation to record a historic feat that justified Cambodia’s decision to seek a universality placement for her from the International Olympic Committee in a bid to encourage more women to participate in distance running.
Ly’s time was nearly four minutes shy of an hour behind the eventual winner Jemima Sumgong, who became Kenya’s first female marathon gold medallist in an impressive 2:24:04, just over 12 seconds ahead of Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa of Bahrain. Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia finished third in 2:24.30.
“We are indeed happy that Nary Ly stayed on in the race until the finish, which some of the better-known athletes failed to do. This sends a powerful and a positive message to women back home who might take up long distance running,” said Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the NOCC.
Conditions were demanding when the field of close to 200 runners was sent on its way at around 9:30am Rio time (7:30pm Cambodian time).
Unable to match the fast early tempo, Ly settled way back and stayed one-paced throughout to complete the course in a time far slower than her personal best – a shade over three hours recorded last year at the Valencia Marathon.
“I would have wished for a much better time. But I am quite satisfied that I could keep running until the finish. I trained really hard in Kenya for months ahead of this great opportunity and honour that Cambodia had given me,” she said after the race.
With the two swimmers Pou Souvijja and Hemthon Vittiny acquitting themselves well but failing to advance, female wrestler Chov Sotheara is next up to compete for the Kingdom in the 48kg freestyle event tomorrow.
The 33-year-old multiple SEA Games medallist is only the second wrestler to represent her country at an Olympics since Atlanta 1996 – and that historical significance is not lost on her.
“I am well aware of how significant this chance to compete in the Rio Olympics is for me and women’s wrestling in Cambodia. I have been training harder than ever to put up a good performance, even more so because I am planning to retire from competition after this,” Sotheara said on the eve of her departure to Rio.
She is likely to draw either a Japanese or a Korean opponent in the first round. The pairings will be determined tomorrow after the official weigh-in and technical panel meeting.
“It is really important for Sotheara not to think too much of the reputation of her rival. She needs to keep focused and believe in her strength. That is the best way to overcome that initial anxiety every one feels before entering the mat,” noted Chamroeun, who was the first Cambodian wrestler ever to compete at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
After the wrestling mat is rolled up, Cambodian interest will switch to the taekwondo centre, where Sorn Seavmey will be aiming to bring home a first Olympic medal for the Kingdom. According to her coach Choi Yong Sok, the training has been going on as planned.
One quietly putting in the miles is Neko Hiroshi, in preparation for Sunday’s men’s marathon, which also traditionally signifies the end of the two-week Olympic festival.