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Olympic athletes return to Cambodia

A team of Cambodian athletes, consisting of four bound for the upcoming London Olympics and another four preparing for next year’s SEA Games in Myanmar, returned home yesterday morning from a two-week training camp in Beijing.

The team received specialist training at Beijing Sports University under the supervision of coaches provided by the Chinese Olympic Committee in a bid to get them in top shape before the Games, which begin in 18 days.

According to delegation leader Hem Samnang, who is deputy secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and secretary-general of the Cambodian Taekwondo Federation, the fortnight in China helped the athletes learn new techniques and tactics in their respective disciplines.

“It was quite beneficial for us to bring the athletes to Beijing,” Hem Samnang told the Post. “We hope they can improve their performance in London.”

There were few significant improvements on the personal bests of the sports stars, despite expert tuition and days of hard work on the track and in the pool. Coaches attributed this to the short training period and poor conditioning of each individual.

Women’s 200-metre sprinter Chan Seiha was tutored by renowned Chinese athletics coach Zhou Wei and managed to shave 0.34 seconds off her previous best, set at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, last year.

Her time of 26.1 seconds in Beijing was recorded indoors with the absence of headwind, however.

Zhou noted that Seiha had the talent and physicality to excel in the future if given adequate training.

“She is quite talented, and her body condition is good for a sprint athlete,” he said. “It is obvious that her previous training has been inadequate and as such, needs time to improve on her performance.

“At 26 seconds, she may fall short for the Olympics, where top athletes will be aiming for sub-22 seconds.

“But with good, long-term training, she has the potential to make it better in the SEA Games or the Asian Games.”

US track legend Florence Griffith-Joyner still holds the women’s 200-metre world record of 21.34 seconds, set at the Seoul Games in 1988.

Hem Thon Ponloeu and his niece Hem Thon Vitiny, both of whom will be competing in men’s and women’s 50-metre freestyle swimming events, cherished the opportunity to train in Beijing and commended the Beijing Sports University and support of Chinese coach Wang Dapeng.

“We had a good time here, training with very modern facilities and competing with top athletes, which has helped us to learn new techniques,” Hem Thon Ponleu said.

Both swimmers participated in the 2008 Beijing Games and intend to improve on their personal bests of 27.22 seconds for Ponleu and 31.45 for Vitiny.

World records stand at 20.91 for men (Cesar Cielo of Brazil) and 23.73 for women (Britta Steffen of Germany).

Two weeks under coach Wang had them focusing on stamina and conditioning rather than speed, with the hope that the latter will be worked on at home with local coach Hem Kiry during the final two weeks before their departure to London.

“Training here [in China] has helped us concentrate more and focus on the Games. We have also gained confidence from training with other leading swimmers,” Hem Thon Vitiny said.

According to NOCC Games co-ordinator Nhan Sokvisal, the most improved performer at the camp was 800-metres runner Kieng Samorn.

The athlete, who received a late invitation after Japanese-born marathoner Kuniaki Takizaki was ruled ineligible and the snubbing of Cambodian champion Hem Bunting, impressed his selectors with an inspirational effort in Beijing.

“Samorn has been very hard-working in training and has developed a strong positive attitude,” Nhan Sokvisal said.

Samorn nicked a hundredth of a second off his PB to set 1:52 during his stint in China, but is still way off the pace of the likes of Kenya’s David Rudisha and his world record of 1:41.

Cambodia’s Olympic delegation will set off for London on July 22, where they will be joined by the two remaining athletes, taekwondo star Sorn Davin and judoka Khom Ratanak Mony, who are currently training in London and Brest respectively.

The four other athletes attending the Beijing training camp were male table-tennis players Nay Saravey and Tang Hav, and taekwondo practitioners Sorn Seavmey (female) and Chey Rithy (male).

To contact the reporter on this story: Ken Gadaffi at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Dan Riley

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