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Thin Seng Hong bolts too soon

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Guests at the US Embassy watch Cambodia’s Thin Seng Hong compete in the women’s 200 metres T44 heat of the London Paralympics yesterday. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia’s only Paralympian in London, Thin Seng Hong, failed in her attempt to break her personal best in the women’s 200 metres T44 class heats yesterday.

Her reaction time off the blocks was deemed a shade too fast and, despite completing the race last out of five runners, with a sizeable gap between her and her nearest rival, the 26-year-old was ultimately disqualified, thus missing out on an official time.

Thin Seng Hong’s previous record, set at the ASEAN ParaGames in Indonesia last December, where she won silver, remains at 36.07 seconds.

Back in Cambodia, more than a hundred people invited by the US and British embassies gathered in the courtyard of the US Embassy to cheer Thin Seng Hong on in her race, which began about 5pm Cambodian time.

Many guests, including individuals with missing limbs, came from local organisations and NGOs that assist Cambodians with disabilities.

A live feed from London was projected on a large screen under a gigantic pavilion. The chairs and tables filled up quickly, so some opted to sit on the lawn.

“Thin Seng Hong will give confidence to other aspiring disabled athletes,” British ambassador Mark Gooding told the crowd in his address before the featured event.

When the starting pistol fired, people shouted and cheered, but were soon accompanied by some sympathetic laughter as the Cambodian dropped off the pace to finish well behind the other sprinters.

A picnic scene ensued at the Embassy, with supporters enjoying pizza, chatting and watching more of the Paralympics together.

Yesterday’s heat was won by 20-year-old Dutch prodigy Marlou van Rhijn in a world-record time of 26.97. The final is slated for tonight at 2:48am Cambodian time, with Van Rhijn hoping to avenge her photo-finish defeat in the women’s 100 metres T44 final on Sunday to France’s Marie-Amelie de Fur.

Thin Seng Hong will return home having added to a disappointing campaign for Cambodian athletes on the track at London’s Olympic Stadium, where none were able to improve on their personal bests.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julius Thiemann and Dan Riley at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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