National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia General Secretary Yi Veasna (F) said they had expected sprinter Thin Seng Hong (R) to struggle to compete in London. Photograph: Yeun Ponlok/Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia’s Thin Seng Hong was humbled by her inaugural appearance at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on Saturday night, as she failed to set a new personal best on the track of the Olympic Stadium during her heat in the women’s 100 metres T44 class competition.
The Kampong Cham sprinter’s time of 17.35 seconds was the fastest she’d run this season, but fell 22 hundredths of a second outside her record run last year at the ASEAN ParaGames in Indonesia where she took the silver medal.
Thin Seng Hong struggled to match the pace of her five other well conditioned rivals, coming home last and almost two and a half seconds from the fifth place finisher. Dutch runner Marlou van Rhijn won the heat in 13.27 seconds, equaling the world record of April Holmes of the US who finished just behind her to qualify for this morning’s final, slated for 3:33am Cambodian time. France’s Marie-Amelie le Fur won Saturday’s other women’s 100-metre T44 heat with a time of 13.40.
The T44 class features athletes with one unilateral below knee amputation or equivalent. Thin Seng Hong, 26, lost her right leg after stepping on an anti-personal mine when she was 10 years old.
Yi Veasna, executive director of the National Centre of Disabled Persons and general secretary of the National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia who is leading the delegation in London, said he had expected the race to pan out the way it did.
“We knew Thin Seng Hong had a lower standard than most of the other competitors because she came here on a Universality wildcard [granted by the International Paralympic Committee],” he told the Post yesterday.
“This was her first time at this level. She faced the best in the world. But I saw that she tried so hard in the event and during her training every day. She respected her preparations, including following a strict diet.”
According to the General Secretary, Cambodia’s Ambassador to the UK Hor Nam Bora invited the delegates to visit the Cambodian Embassy in Willesden, West London, and also helped arrange Cambodian students living in the city to attend the race and wave flags in support.
Thin Seng Hong now looks ahead to her last chance of glory for the Kingdom when she reappears in front of another capacity crowd of 80,000 at the spectacular Olympic Stadium on Wednesday for the women’s 200-metre T44 event.
“We know we will have a similar result [with her coming last], but we will do our best to encourage her,” added Yi Veasna, who was impressed by the technology, administration and transport available at the 2012 Paralympics compared to previous Games.
With Thin Seng Hong’s heat on Wednesday scheduled at a more practical start time of 5:03pm in the afternoon here, British Ambassador Mark Gooding has joined forces with his American counterpart William E Todd to host a viewing party in the grounds of the US Embassy next to Wat Phnom.
According to a press release issued on Friday by the US Embassy, through the support of Veterans International Cambodia, the Disability Action Council, the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation and Handicap International, invited guests will include land mine victims and disabled persons to demonstrate the bridging of differences and acceptance of people with disabilities.