Former basketball star Dennis Rodman may have been in the eye of a birthday bash storm in North Korea but Cambodia, meanwhile, in a much quieter sense is seeking Pyongyang’s help in training its wrestlers.
The Cambodian Wrestling Federation is requesting from its North Korean counterpart two young wrestlers-cum-coaches as replacement for 65-year-old Pak Su-nam, who left the Kingdom for good yesterday morning after a lengthy stint as the national team's head coach.
“I am extremely sad that Pak Su-nam has left us. He had done so much for our wrestlers,” said National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Secretary General Vath Chamroeun, who trained under the veteran coach back in North Korea for two years before representing Cambodia at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
As Pak took a morning flight back to his country of origin, he made it plain that he was leaving with a leaden heart and that he had relished every moment of his time in the Kingdom. “I wish the Cambodian wrestlers well and I am extremely proud of what I saw in Myanmar. Those four gold medals in the SEA Games are the most fabulous parting gift I could have got. The future is really bright for Cambodian wrestling,” said Pak, whose tenure over two terms added up to a little over 10 years.
Advancing age had forced him to coach away from the mat, but what the wrestling federation is now looking for are young coaches who can also double up as wrestlers so that the local trainees get a better grasp of grappling techniques.
The CWF will soon cast its net wide around the world to trawl wrestlers with Cambodian roots. “This is our new strategy. There are so many talented Cambodian wrestlers overseas. In fact, I had met quite a lot of them in my competitive days in the United States.
“So we will start looking for these talents in Canada and the United States and possibly widen the search to other countries,” Vath Chamreoun told the Post in an exclusive chat yesterday.
“Our second goal is to bolster women’s wrestling where our medal prospects are really good,” he added.
Myanmar gold medalist Chov Sotheara has called it a day on her competitive career, with the Federation now roping her in as a coach.
Armenian legend Stephan Kazarian, whose courtship with Cambodian wrestling dates back to the 60s, will be in Phnom Penh to conduct a short course for coaches and wrestlers during the last week of this month.
But of greater significance will be the feedback he is likely to give the NOCC on its proposed bid for staging the 2015 World Beach Wrestling Championship.
Kazarian had gone on an inspection trip to Sihanoukville during his last visit months ago to study the feasibility of holding these annual championships on one of the many beaches that the port city has to offer. Cambodia is yet to submit an official bid and complete the required documentation.
The NOCC is also keen on discussing with Kazarian the issue of obtaining more Olympic standard mats. At present there are just two of these mats available for training but Kazarian during his previous visit had made it abundantly clear that the Kingdom needed many more.
The CWF is counting on Kazarian’s help to secure these mats from either Iran, Russia or Turkey, who are the dominant players in their manufacture.
Cambodia will send at least three wrestlers to Thailand for the qualifying rounds of the Youth Olympic Games to be held some time in May, ahead of the second edition in Nanjing, China, in August.