Thin Seng Hong, Cambodia’s sole representative at the 2012 Paralympic Games, set off for London on Friday ahead of her participation in the women’s 100-metre and 200-metre T44 competitions.
The T44 group of ambulant athletes with a disability are classified by the International Paralympic Committee as those with a unilateral below knee amputation or equivalent.
Preliminary heats for the women’s 100-metre T44 are this Saturday, with the final on Sunday. Women’s 200-metre T44 heats are on September 5 with the final the following day.
The Kampong Cham native, 26, lost her right leg when she was 10 years old after stepping on an anti-personal mine.
Running with a carbon-fibre blade in place of her missing limb, Seng Hong has become one of the Kingdom’s most prolific athletes with a disability, capturing gold in the 400-metre and silvers over 100-metre and 200-metre at the 6th ASEAN ParaGames in Solo, Indonesia, last December.
She said she was determined to break her personal bests in her events in London, being inspired by the chance to race against the world’s top athletes.
“The real problem for me is the [cold] weather in London. Also, my [prosthetic racing] limb is not a new model. Other athletes will have better models,” Seng Hong told the Post before her departure.
Seng Hong set her record times in Indonesia last year, running the 100 metres in 17.13 seconds and 200 metres in 36.07 seconds.
American sprinter April Holmes currently holds both of the women’s T44 world records over the same distances – 12.98 in the 100 metres and 27.10 in the 200 metres set in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
The 39-year-old is competing in both races in London, where she will look to retain her 100-metres gold medal from Beijing.
Should Seng Hong succeed in achieving qualification for the finals of either of her events, she would set a new precedent for Cambodian Paralympians. The Kingdom’s representatives have failed to progress from the opening rounds in all previous editions.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, the men’s standing volleyball team won just two sets during five group match losses against the likes of gold medallists Germany, bronze medalists Slovakia, USA, Israel and Poland. However, they bowed out on a high note, beating Australia 3-2.
At the 2004 Athens Games, men’s T44 sprinter Nhork Kimhor did not advance past the first round with times of 12.93 and 26.55 over 100 metres and 200 metres respectively. Four years later in Beijing, Kim Vanna set slower times in identical events to also miss out on the final.
Yi Veasna, executive director of the National Centre of Disabled Persons and general secretary of the National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia and who requires a wheelchair having had both legs amputated after contracting polio as a child, is heading the Cambodian delegation bound for London.
He is being accompanied by his wife as his personal assistant, while Thin Seng Hong’s assistant coach Mao Sochea will also travel after getting the nod ahead of national team coach Phay Sok.