The Cambodian government have given a major boost to the morale of sports teams bound for the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou by announcing huge cash bonanzas for medalists in any of the eight disciplines the Kingdom is taking part in.
Cambodia joins the list of many countries in the region awarding such bounties for medal winners. The government will award a cash prize of 40 million riels (US$9,640) for a gold medal, 24 million riels for a silver and 18 million riels for a bronze finish in either individual or team events.
“The contingent feels proud and honoured by the encouraging words of the Prime Minister, and they are excited about the incentives being offered for the first time in the history of Cambodia's Asian Games participation,” said Vath Chamroeun, Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, as he bid farewell to the departing squad.
Headed by Chef de Mission Sok Ang, the 42-strong delegation comprises participants in tennis, taekwondo, swimming, athletics, boxing, beach volleyball, wrestling and Chinese chess, and are accompanied by trainers and technical staff as well as a few local sports officials.
The NOCC Secretary General has left for Guangzhou, while NOCC President Thong Khon is scheduled to join them Wednesday.
The NOCC has been flooded with good luck messages from various organisations and government agencies, but the most significant one came from the prime minister, who said he was convinced the Cambodian athletes would try their best to enhance the prestige of the country and that their performances would surpass their previous achievements.
Vath Chamrouen said the NOCC was happy with the preparations of the teams. “We do realise that it is a very tough competition among the 45 nations taking part, but we have faith in the competence and commitment of our athletes,” he said.
“Our main medal hope is in Taekwondo. Two of our women performers – Chhoeung Puthearim and Sorn Davin – won gold medals in a Korean competition two months ago, and that raises our expectations. Our chess players are taking part in Chinese chess for the first time, and we have a good perfomer in Heng Chamnan.
“It is unfortunate that table tennis could not make the grade, as the SEA Games performance was set as the threshold for qualification [which they failed to meet]," he added.
Tennis Federation of Cambodia's national team head coach Braen Aneiros felt that the Guangzhou Games could be a game changer for No 1 ranked local player Bun Kenny if he could ride home the recent momentum generated by his performance in Laos, where he picked up his first ATP point. “Bun Kenny will be playing in tough company, and if he does well it could open up new avenues for him,” said Aneiros, who also suggested that 16-year-old teammate Orn Sambath would get good international exposure.
Cambodia made their first appearance in Manila at the 1954 Asian Games, also known as the Asiad. This year’s edition, held in China for the second time after Beijing's hosting in 1990, runs from November 12-27 and features 476 events in 42 different sports.