Two students from Hun Sen Borey 100 Khnang High School in Phnom Penh won medals at the recent Vovinam National and Kirisu Championships 2023, a sport also featured in the 32nd SEA Games hosted by Cambodia in 2023.

Seng Sok Nita, a 15-year-old in the ninth grade, secured two gold and two silver medals at the competition earlier this January.

At the same time, her 16-year-old sister Seng Sok Lita, in the 11th grade, clinched three medals in the same discipline.

Following their success, the siblings aspire to train at Cambodia’s national club and eventually represent the national Vovinam team.

In particular, the sisters dream of competing internationally in Vietnam, the birthplace of the sport.

Their passion for Vovinam was fuelled by encouragement from neighbours and coaches who influenced their choice to pursue the sport.

Both expressed immense joy at winning the medals, acknowledging that their initial lack of success was overcome through dedication to rigorous training and encouragement from their trainers.

“I’m delighted to have won two gold medals at the competition, in which I performed three demonstrations and faced one combat competition,” Nita said. 

“And I won three medals in the events,” her sister Lita added.

The two medallists noted the difficulty of winning additional awards in the competition, as most participants were from more advanced national teams.

In combat, competitors followed specific regulations, avoiding the use of knees and elbows and employing only hands and legs, while wearing protective helmets and teeth guards.

Training for national competitions and beyond

Nita shared that her initial training was difficult due to the large number of attendees and her lack of technique. Nonetheless, she committed to daily practice, dedicating an hour and a half each day in preparation for the event.

Nita explained that her decision to join the national club was influenced by her participation in the national Vovinam event where she represented the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) club.

She mentioned that the Sen Sok club, her current training base, selected both her and her sister to represent the organisation, training alongside approximately 30 to 40 individuals from various other teams.

“I chose Vovinam because I thought that, although it may not be very popular, it’s a beneficial and safe sport that enhances strength and is good for our overall health,” Nita added.

“Vovinam encompasses various categories, including swords, dual swords, individual performances, combat for both men and women as well as three-person displays and numerous other disciplines,” she said.

Nita said that her current skill level is still limited compared to contestants competing in international tournaments like the SEA Games. However, she is striving to enhance her abilities.

“I am delighted because in our previous competitions, we didn’t win any medals. Watching others receive [them] brought us joy and motivated us to train harder. Now that we have achieved success, it brings us happiness and we are inspired to continue practicing more,” she added.

Lita shared her aspiration to participate in international competitions as a representative of the Cambodian national team. 

During the 2023 Vovinam national championship, the RCAF Vovinam Club, represented by Lita and Nita among other athletes, secured first place and won the highest number of medals – a total of 16 – among the 13 other clubs participating in the competition.

The club achieved an impressive tally of 12 gold medals, two silver and two bronze across various Vovinam disciplines.

Parents’ and teachers’ encouragement crucial

Seng Sakal, the girls’ father as well as a teacher at their high school, has consistently provided support and encouragement to his daughters. 

“I continuously motivate them to persist in their training and strive to excel at the national level,” he said.

“If my daughters decide to become national team athletes, I one-hundred per cent support them and encourage them to train even harder,” he added enthusiastically. 

“In reality, both of them competed as representatives of the club. Their victory brings pride and joy to the school. For hard-working students, we consistently provide training, guiding them to grow in alignment with their individual talents,” said Mey Somony, a member of the management team at the high school.

He added that teachers offer encouragement and motivation, considering the pursuit of excellence as an honour for oneself, family, school and society. 

He said the school is focused on broadening potential and nurturing talents based on students’ interests, promoting clubs such as Taekwondo, Vovinam and classical and modern arts, to create a student environment, “as diverse as a garden with a variety of colourful flowers”.