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Sam Sophea grabs bronze

The Cambodian flag was proudly displayed on Saturday evening at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore as young sensation Sam Sothea clinched bronze in the 44-kilogram girls Judo after defeating her Bulgarian counterpart in the classification bout.

Sam Sothea’s eyes filled with tears of joy as she stood on the podium during the victory ceremony. “It is a big surprise for me because I didn’t know I would get this far, but I was determined to do well for my country and today I am happy to have won the bronze,” she said.

The 15-year-old Cambodian had defeated Cynthia Rahming from the Bahamas in the first round, before losing to Barbara Batizi from Hungary in the preliminary round to earn place in the Bronze medal playoff. Sothea then floored Yoana Damyanova of Bulgaria to claim Cambodia’s first medal in the Youth Olympic Games. The gold went to Korea’s Bae Seul Bi while Hungary’s Barbara Batizi carted home the silver.

Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun expressed his delight on receiving news of Sothea’s success in Singapore.

“This is a good result for Cambodia,” he said. “We are proud of Sothea’s success. She is certainly one for the future and we hope to groom her for more success and see her qualify for the Olympics.”

NOCC Games Coordinator Nhan Sokvisal, who witnessed Sothea’s triumph in Singapore, was overcome with emotion. “I cannot help to control my tears of joy as I watched my country’s flag being hoisted,” he said.

“Sothea is a great fighter. After the first round victory, she was looking forward to get to the finals but was disappointed with the loss to the Hungarian girl. She gave her best in the match against the Bulgarian and at the end won the bronze.”

Earlier in the week, Cambodia’s fourth athlete in the Youth Olympics Games delegation had been disqualified after failing a weigh in. Wrestler Chab Sokneang was entered at 46 kilograms, but came in 4 kilograms over. Vath Chamroeun explained that the weight difference affected many countries in the Youth Olympics as the organisers maintained a strict regulation, unlike in senior competitions where an allowance of 4 to 5 kilograms is acceptable.

“We are disappointed that Sokneang couldn’t take part in the wrestling event,” said the NOCC official. “Sokneang was 52 kilograms when she left Cambodia, and we had put her on a training regime to loose weight before her event. Unfortunately she could only drop two kilos.”

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