All three Cambodian wrestlers in contention over the weekend went down at the first hurdle even as the last vestiges of tennis interest disappeared at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon.
With high hopes of a medal firmly pinned on her, the two-time SEA Games gold medalist Chov Sotheara was no match for Thailand’s 18-year-old rising star Maliwan Muapgor, who comfortably won their women’s 48kg freestyle quarter-final on Saturday by a 12-5 points decision.
Sotheara, 30, who narrowly missed out on an Asiad medal four years ago in Guangzhou, decided to come out of self- declared retirement following appeals from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia to make one last bid.
But her determination and experience was trumped in the end at the Dowon Gymnasium by the youthful energy of Maliwan, who first caught the eye in December last year when she won a silver medal at the Myanmar Asian Games in the 55kg class.
A student of Thailand’s famous Suphanburi Sports School, Maliwan took control after Sotheara had shown some early sparkle only to be subdued in the end. Maliwan, however, lost her semi-final to China’s Sun Yanan.
NOCC secretary general Vath Chamroeun, himself an Olympian in wrestling, had felt guardedly optimistic of Sotheara’s chances when the draw was announced.
“I thought she had very good experience to get past this initial stage. She began well but then she couldn’t handle the pressure,” Vath Chamroeun said after watching the bout.
Commonwealth gold medalist Babita Kumari of India brought off a victory by fall over Cambodia’s Dorn Srey Mao yesterday in the women’s 55kg freestyle category. Srey Mao, who recently represented Cambodia in the Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing, reeled under Babita’s superior grappling skills.
Meanwhile in the men’s section, Dorn Sao, one of the Kingdom’s heroes of last year’s Myanmar SEA Games, was hopelessly pinned down by Mamed Ibragimov of Kazakhstan in the 97kg freestyle class. It was obvious from the start that the Kazakh powerhouse was indeed the master of the mat as he allowed no liberties to his rival. The verdict of victory by great superiority thus came as no surprise.
The last remaining Cambodian wrestler to hit the Incheon mats, 17-year-old Ngoun Makara, is up this afternoon in the men’s 61kg freestyle competition.
Ma Viro brings up rear
Cambodia’s first track engagement turned out to be disappointing as Ma Viro brought up the rear of the 19-runner field in the men’s 5,000 metres at the Incheon Asiad Stadium on Saturday.Ma Viro, who has been a regular podium finisher in several half marathons at home, found the trip too sharp as he was completely outpaced by the rest to finish a distant last at 16:00.31.
The gold medal went to Al Garni Mohamad of Qatar, who smashed a 20-year-old Games record with a time of 13:26.13, ahead of Bahrain’s Gebre Alemu Bekele (13:27.98) and his compatriot Rop Alber Kibichi (13:28.08).
Cambodia’s tennis campaign came to an end on Friday after Mam Phalkun and Andrea Ka were beaten 6-1, 6-2 by the Chinese combination of Zheng Ze and Jie Zheng in the second round of the mixed doubles. The Cambodian pair had beaten Nepal’s Sakcham Karki and Ira Mehernissa Rawot 6-0, 6-1 in the first round.
NOCC react to doping case
NOCC secretary general Vath Chamroeun, reacting to Cambodia’s soft tennis player Yi Sophany failing a doping test in Incheon last week, ruled out an appeal but insisted that a detailed internal enquiry will be held into the incident.
Sophany tested positive for the presence of Sibutramine, a special stimulant which is an orally administered agent for the treatment of obesity. She has since returned to Phnom Penh as required by the regulation.
“It is regrettable that the athlete out of sheer ignorance may have taken food or drink which contained this banned substance before she arrived in Korea,” the secretary said.
“We don’t know what may have happened. She may have taken something without knowing its repercussions. There was definitely no intent to dope. Soft tennis is a new sport and we only sent the team to gain experience for the future, so why would she take anything to enhance her performance?
“We have always educated and enlightened our national federations and these athletes on what they should and should not take. We are investigating this case seriously to know the cause,” he added.
Vath Chamroeun appealed to the international and local media to understand that the category of substance found in Sophany’s sample was not an anabolic steroid or a performance enhancing drug but only a special stimulant for weight loss which the World Anti-Doping Agency classified as S6, a substance prohibited in competition.
“It is an embarrassment but it is also a great opportunity to make absolutely sure that an incident like this will never happen again and we are firmly committed in keeping Cambodian sports clean,” said the NOCC official.
Meanwhile Tennis Cambodia, under whose umbrella soft tennis operates, is pursuing its own probe as to the circumstances which led to this incident.