Cambodia’s champion taekwondo fighter Sorn Davin has been making the most of her pre-Games training in London and looks set to be in top shape going into her Women’s Over-67kg event on August 11.
“It’s good chance for me to be here early,” she told the Post from London during a phone interview over the weekend. “I think I’ve improved a lot ahead of the competition.”
Sorn Davin’s program runs for five weeks, taking her from her arrival in England on June 14 through to when she enters the Olympic Village on July 22.
She is training between 10 and 15 hours a week at various venues across the capital, including a purpose-built dojang for one-to-one training in Twickenham’s South Bank University where taekwondo is a focus for research and performance, and Mile End athletics track.
Technical work, combination and game-play drills, functional strength training, track running and sparring are all incorporated into her course.
Davin’s trainer is David Cook, who has been coaching and training top taekwondo athletes for over five years. The English doctor of biometrics has seen his students achieve success at several world ranking competitions as well as leading British teams at the past three World University Games and past two World University Championships.
He also coached Team Nigeria at the Commonwealth Championships and World Olympic Qualifiers last year.
Cook revealed that many of Davin’s sessions were held on an individual basis with him, concentrating on the detailed aspects of high performance. “However, during track and sparring sessions, Davin is part of an elite group of fighters who compete on the international scene,” he added.
This group includes Dawud Izza, the current British Under-63kg Men’s No 1, Daniel Walters, the current Commonwealth Under-68kg Men’s silver medallist, and recently retired international fighter Temidayo Jegede, who has represented both Britain and Nigeria on the world stage.
“Davin has been working with our group for just over three weeks and in this time there are definite improvements in her game,” said Cook.
“Much of the focus in training has been on increasing the effectiveness of her front leg attacks and counters, improving her movement and posture in the dynamics of game play to allow more effective secondary play and dealing with the check-game, as well as her overall conditioning. All of these aspects are important for game play on the Daedo system and with the “new” headshot rules.
“Her general daily routine involves two training sessions, one in the morning and one early evening. In between she refuels, relaxes and also studies taekwondo videos, looking at the technicalities and details of game play.”
Davin noted that, compared to her training in Cambodia, the emphasis in England appeared to be on quality over quantity. “My English coach told me that we kick only 10 times but with at least one right direction, better than we kick 100 times with wrong direction,” she said.
“I promise that I will do my best for Cambodia because it’s the biggest event of my career. Many thanks to the Taekwondo Federation of Cambodia especially coach Hem Samnang, the general secretary of Federation, who believed in me and sent me to London.”
The 20-year-old SEA Games silver medallist said she was intensely focused on her training, and rarely ventured far from sports venues but for a few quick shopping trips.
Taekwondo coaches Hem Samnang and Choi Yung Sok of South Korea will catch up with Davin when the rest of the Cambodian Olympic delegation arrive in London on July 22.
Cook, meanwhile, confirmed he was “very pleased” with Davin’s attitude and hard work in their sessions.
“She has a greater overall understanding of the requirements of elite taekwondo and has considerably improved her distance and technical game,” he said.
Despite failing to officially qualify for the London Games, instead receiving an Olympic berth thanks to one of four wildcards handed out by the World Taekwondo Federation, Davin is worthy of her place in the competition according to Cook.
“I know some very highly ranked fighters who also failed to qualify automatically for the Olympics. Davin is a young athlete and is continually progressing through her training. She will have to overcome highly ranked fighters to achieve a medal performance, and as she is not seeded she will invariably have a difficult draw.
“However, taekwondo can often be unpredictable and Davin has a few weapons that may cause a few surprises. Things can change very quickly with a head kick. I believe Davin will give commendable performances throughout.”
Cook’s association with Cambodia runs deeper than his work with Sorn Davin. His girlfriend You Kanika is a Cambodian taekwondo athlete who has lived in England since 1999. She was selected to represent Cambodia at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou but was forced to pull out due to a serious knee injury.
“It is through [You Kanika’s] commitment that I have seen a real potential in Cambodian athletes,” said Cook.
“Cambodia as a nation is still developing, and I believe that sport can often be a medicine to help facilitate the well being of people. Anything that I can do to assist this process through sporting development then I will.
“I visited Cambodia in 2007 with my girlfriend and stayed with her mother who runs a Montessori school, Seametrey Children’s Village, in Phnom Penh. I thought Cambodia was a beautiful country and the Cambodian people were exceptionally friendly.”
Cook and Kanika are contributing to Davin’s training costs as well as putting her up at Kanika’s house.
In the aftermath of the London Games, Cook has accepted a job as head coach of the Norwegian national team, a position he will take up from September 1 and which will see him through to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.