Cambodia’s Chhoeung Puthearim (blue) tries to kick Vu Thi Hau of Vietnam during their Women’s Senior Bantamweight final at the ASEAN Taekwondo Championship. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
In a display of guts and glory, Cambodia reaped a rich harvest of 41 medals – four of them glittering gold – as the curtain came down on the 10th ASEAN Taekwondo Championships at the National Sports Complex on Saturday.
Regional Taekwondo giants Vietnam expectedly swept the mat clean with 25 golds from their cache of 56 medals. The Philippines, with 11 golds and 41 medals in total, took second place ahead of Cambodia in third.
But for the Kingdom, which was hosting an event of this size and stature for the first time, the golden haul was the biggest ever from an international competition.
The irrepressible Sorn Davin was confidence personified as she landed the Women’s Senior Middleweight gold with a compact win over Vietnam’s Tran Thi Ngoc Bich on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Chhoeung Puthearim lit the arena up when she deftly handled a tough contest against Vietnam’s Vu Thi Hau to grab the Women’s Senior Bantamweight gold.
When Chhoy Puthea got down to fight Indonesia’s Derry Dharmansyah in the Men’s Senior Lightweight final, a vociferous crowd gave him a roof shattering vocal support and he didn’t let down his supporters.
Puthea, always technically efficient, got the measure of the Indonesian to bring Cambodia another precious gold.
The fourth gold for the hosts came when Puth Bunthoeun put up a stout-hearted show to down Keno Anthony Mendoza of the Philippines.
“It is unbelievably good result for us,” said National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Secretary General Vath Chamroeun.
“Four golds and 41 medals in all can only mean that Cambodia is now one of the region’s prime contenders in this discipline. This performance now raises our hope of more medals at the forthcoming SEA Games [this November].
“Sorn Davin and Chhoeung Puthearim will train in South Korea for four months before the SEA Games and they are our best hope in Indonesia,” he said.
“Apart from these very good results, we have also managed to showcase our management skills. The championships went through without a hitch and it enhances our confidence to host bigger events in the future.”
19-year-old Sorn Davin expressed her pride in claiming the gold before going on a victory lap around the arena to the passionate waving of national colours. “I was very confident going into the fight. I am happy I have won this gold medal for the country,” she said.
Cambodia head coach Choi Yong Sok, a South Korean who has been with the national team since 1994, was also pleased with their success. “We have worked very hard for this result and I am glad our team performed so creditably.”
There were also near misses on the mat for the Kingdom, particularly in the men’s senior section. Vietnam’s Vo Hoang Giao edged out Cambodia’s So Naro in the Middleweight final, while Chhoy Bouthorn, who was shaping up to improve on his silver from the 2009 SEA Games, fell foul to a renewed surge by Vietnam’s Luong The Nhat Mink in the Flyweight category gold medal match.
In the Senior Women’s Flyweight final, Cheang Bunna fought on level terms in the first two rounds before Malaysia’s Elaine Teo Shueh Fhern took absolute control of the bout.
Singapore and Laos went home without a gold medal, while Indonesia picked up one. Malaysia and Thailand accounted for two gold medals each.
45 gold and silver medals and 74 bronzes were awarded in total during the tournament, which consisted of individual and team Poomsae (performance) competitions on Thursday and junior and senior men’s and women’s Gyeorugi (combative) events on Friday and Saturday.