More than 100 young hopefuls, some who had trained for several years, gathered at
the National Stadium on Aug. 28-29 to vie for a spot in the National Gymnastics Federation.
After four hours of heated competition the judges made their decision: All the contestants
were qualified, although, Tep Kreth Sasna, general manager of the federation, noted
some would need some more training. The best contestants also received awards.
The Khmer Gymnastics Federation was revived in 1980 after a five-year hiatus caused
by the upheaval of the Khmer Rouge years.
The first students practiced on hand-made equipment but many of these quit the sport
to join the National Circus Company just as they were coming into their physical
In 1986, the Khmer Gymnastics Federation was upgraded to become the national federation.
The former Soviet Union provided facilities and Bulgaria sent coaches over the next
two years, but since then no more foreign support has been made available.
World Concern assisted in making an appeal to raise money to buy new mats and equipment
to replace the old which are now in a state of disrepair.
According to Madam Sasna, who also coaches at the National Stadium Gymnasium, about
50 small boys and girls, in addition to those who took part in the recent trials,
are being trained to be future gymnasts. About 30 of them are completely dependent
on the coaches and trainers for sports clothes and food while training because their
families were too poor to support them.
"We're spending our own money earned from part-time careers to buy something
for the poorest kids to eat so that they have enough energy to work at the gymnasium
for the whole morning and afternoon,'' Sasna said, adding that she is now trying
to find support from members of the public who are willing to help these small kids
and the national gymnasium. She said members of the public who have something to
donate can come directly to the National Stadium Gymnasium and contact her.
Some agencies and companies have provided money and facilities in response to her
appeal. The Marlboro cigarette company has given U.S. $1,000, Malaysia Airlines $350,
the Australian Catholic Church $62, the Gal Ireland $ 60, U.N.-ONI some chairs with
a total worth of $40, the World Trade $30, and Concern's Callum Durward $20 and Trishatur
14 gymnastic catalogues.