Australian-born Bethany Robertson could become the latest addition to Cambodia’s burgeoning ranks of foreign based athletes that make themselves available for international competitions. The 16-year-old Victoria state and national champion swimmer, who is currently attending Genazzano FCJ College in the Melbourne suburb of Kew, has indicated an interest to represent her ancestral homeland rather than her country of residence.
Born to a Cambodian mother and Australian father, Robertson has taken part in over 40 domestic championships. Her father John is the President of Surrey Park Swimming Club, where Bethany trains and is captain of the team. He recently made enquiries to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia over her eligibility to swim for the Kingdom.
John Robertson noted his daughter’s remarkable record in state championships, especially in long distance events such as the 5km open water swim.
In response to Robertson’s inquiry, NOCC Secretary General Vath Chamroeun said he was delighted to have more foreign based Cambodian athletes willing to represent the country providing they proved ability to earn medals.
“We welcome Khmer athletes based abroad if they meet the standard expected of them. We have to check her records against the top athletes at the last SEA Games and if she has good timing, we would be happy to invite her,” he said.
Secretary General of Cambodian Swimming Federation Hem Thon saw immediate potential in the young Melbourne resident after some quick analysis of her records and echoed confidence that she would be a strong prospect for the future.
“She should be able to make it into the national team. Its unfortunate that we discovered her too late. Her personal best in the long distance could have earned her a gold in the last SEA Games,” he said.
“We will be having about four championships next year and would extend an invitation to her to try out. Should she be good enough, we would be happy to have her in the team for the future SEA Games, Asian Games and probably Olympics.”
Bethany’s came first in both the 5km and 10km races for U16 Girls at this year’s Australian Open Water Championships, and she also made the Australian National Youth Squad. Her current personal best in open water 5km is 1.01:00, while 10km is 2.09:00.
The London Olympics next year will feature just the 10km open water event, with the majority of the 25 qualification places taken at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai and the 2012 Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in Setúbal, Portugal.
Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain won the women’s 10km event in Shanghai in a time of 2:01:58.
On December 31, Cambodia will host its first open water swimming event over 5km as part of the inaugural Sea Festival in Sihanoukville.