The week-long Olympic Solidarity technical course for wrestlers and coaches conducted by the World Wrestling Federation’s coordinator for coaches, Stephen Kazarian, concluded at the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia headquarters.
Widely travelled and well-regarded as a highly proficient coach for over half a century, Kazarian, a native of Armenia who has been living in the Greek capital Athens for the past 15 years, had his 16 trainees spellbound in a wrap-up session that sharply focused on the virtues of being a good coach helping a talented wrestler.
“I am happy that there is so much improvement over what I had seen three years ago when I conducted a similar course in Cambodia,” Kazarian told the Post in an exclusive interview.
Kazarian, who ranks among Armenia’s most revered sports personalities, will spend the next three days in the seaside city of Sihanoukville on a specific mission before returning home.
He will survey the beautiful beaches there to determine the feasibility of staging the 2015 World Beach Wrestling Championship, which Cambodia is likely to bid for.
“We started this annual Beach Wrestling championships seven years ago. I would only be too happy to help Cambodia to stage the event if we find the facilities and beaches suitable. This year it was in Morocco and Greece will be the hosts in 2014,” he added.
”My relationship with Cambodian wrestling goes back a very long way. It is a historically traditional sport, but unless you adapt a professional approach it is hard to succeed because the competition around the globe is so fierce.
“In a sense, wrestling lost its amateurism after the Helsinki Olympics once the then Soviet bloc plunged into it in a big way. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we have so many countries in the region producing wrestlers of great quality in huge numbers, and to compete with them you have to be as good as them.”
Kazarian noted that the lack of quality equipment was a significant factor limiting development of the sport here.
“If you ask me to pinpoint one vital aspect that is slowing down Cambodian wrestling, I would say without hesitation that it is the terrible shortage of Olympic standard mats.”
“You need more and more mats so that talented wrestlers in provinces can train on them. Take Armenia, for instance: a country with a population of just over three million has no less than 200 quality mats. For a country of Cambodia’s population [over 14 million], you can imagine how many you need and compare it with how many you have.”
The inveterate veteran, who has attended scores of Olympics and World Championship in as many as 80 countries, assured the NOCC that he would take up the issue of mats with the world governing body – the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles – and find a way of helping Cambodia in this regard.
“These mats are made in Iran, Russia and Turkey, and the freight costs are so steep in bringing them to Cambodia that the cost would triple. But we will work a way out,” said Kazarian, adding that the Kingdom could opt for the smaller five by five-metre mats rather than the standard nine by nine.
“I will arrange for a well-qualified coach to come down soon to Cambodia and travel to the provinces, identify talent and help them sharpen their skills,” said Kazarian.
“From what I have seen, and my week-long interaction with these participants, I see a good future ahead for Cambodian wrestlers if they sharpen their focus and meet the kind of professionalism that the sport demands nowadays.
“Mind you, each category in wrestling has on offer 28 Olympic medals, seven gold, seven silver and 14 bronze, and it is quite a lot if you compare them with team sport like hockey.”
NOCC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun told the Post they were extremely grateful to Kazarian for his contribution in enriching one of Cambodia’s traditional sports.
“He has not only shared his immense knowledge and vast experience with us but he has also, in his capacity as a high ranking official of the world body, helped us in developing a sound structure for wrestling,” the secretary said.
“His guidance and cooperation has been invaluable.”