Cambodia’s medal haul at the 26th SEA Games in Indonesia began with a bronze on Saturday when 17-year-old Sorn Seavmey went down fighting to Vietnam’s Thanh Thao Nguyen in the semifinals of the women’s taekwondo lightweight category at Jakarta’s POPKI Sport Hall.
Braving a slight chin injury suffered during the quarterfinals, the Phnom Penh student staged a splendid rally after a somewhat sluggish beginning, although the Vietnamese fighter kept her poise to emerge winner.
In the final of the 57-62kg event later on Saturday, Indonesia’s Vony Dian, who had an easy time against Victoria of Myanmar in the other semifinal, proved too strong for Thanh Thao Nguyen.
“I am happy I won the country’s first medal and, even if it is only a bronze, I hope this will inspire my team-mates to go for gold,” said Sorn Seavmey after her fight.
Cambodia’s strongest prospects Sorn Davin and Chhoeung Puthearim are well in line for medal honours when they get down to their fights today.
While Chhoeung Puthearim faces Aida Lemos of East Timor in the bantamweight class (49-53kg), a victory for Sorn Davin over Maznal Samad of Malaysia in the middleweight division (68-73kg) has now pitched her into the medal round. ASEAN Championship gold medallist Sorn Davin is assured of a bronze but she is well on course for a possible gold strike.
Meanwhile in the men’s section, a disappointing end marked United States-based Tubbs Daren’s campaign when he went out of the lightweight class to Thanh Tam Duong of Vietnam.
Puth Bunthoeun takes on Naing Dwe Shein of Myanmar in today’s quarterfinal of the finweight category (not exceeding 54kg).
The Kingdom’s medal aspirations are also carried into the middleweight (80-87kg) semifinal by Phon Virak, who faces a tough rival in Jose Anthony Soria of the Philippines.
Over at Jakarta’s Senayan Sport Complex, Cambodia’s badminton team suffered a 3-0 loss to Thailand in the men’s team competition.
Yesterday in the co-hosting city of Palembang, Tennis Cambodia shattered a decades-long SEA Games hoodoo by reaching the medal round of the men’s team competition for the first time. The Kingdom’s historic march towards a podium finish was inspired by the No 1 Bun Kenny, who won his crucial singles and then partnered Orn Sambath to pull off a doubles victory and a 2-1 beating of Laos in the quarterfinals.
Cambodia will now face host nation Indonesia in the semifinal, with at least a bronze medal well secured.
In more ways than one it was a roller coaster ride for Cambodia when Orn Sambath’s determined second set rally was not good enough to trouble Lasavady Vitaya’s resolute 6-1, 6-4 display in the first rubber. But Bun Kenny, whose one year stint on the tour has netted him four ATP points and taken his world ranking to just over 1,200th, firmly stepped in to repair the damage.
In less than an hour, Kenny was home and dry as a 6-2, 6-0 winner over Laos No 1 Keo Dalasouk Donedy to level the match scores at 1-1.
It was the Laotian pair of Lasavady Vitaya and Keo Dalasouk Donedy who came out firing in the first set of the doubles match as the Cambodian duo struggled to strike a good partnership and rhythm.
With Kenny controlling the pace and often dominating the net, Sambath also raised his own game to chip in with some good interceptions at the start of the second set. Slowly but steadily, the Cambodians took control of the court and began to impose the tempo of their choice on the Laotian opponents.
After running through the second set, Kenny and Sambath were all over their rivals as they raced to a love set and an epoch making triumph of 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.
“I was a bit worried when we lost the first set in doubles but I knew very well that we could turn things around and I am glad we managed to do just that,” Bun Kenny said over the phone yesterday.
Tennis Federation of Cambodia General Secretary Tep Rithivit said he couldn’t conceal his joy at the result. “I just can’t imagine that 14 years ago we couldn’t win a single game. In the last two editions we have won two individual bronze medals and here we are assured of at least a team bronze and a definite chance for silver or gold,” he said.
National coach Braen Aneiros was generous in his praise for Bun Kenny. “He was under a lot of pressure, especially in the doubles, but he not only raised his own game but inspired Orn Sambath to his best. We face a tougher opponents in Indonesia, but on Kenny’s current form he has a good chance to make a mark,” he said.
On Saturday at the same Jakabaring Sport Complex in Palembang, Cambodia’s medal hopes were drowned in the pool. Though Hem Thon Ponloeu got into the 50 metres butterfly final, he could hardly make a mark, finishing seventh overall.
Lim Odam and Maximov Chamraen Youri failed to qualify for the 50m butterfly, finishing sixth and seventh respectively in their heats.
There were further disappointments in store for Cambodia on the track on Saturday. Much was expected from Swiss-based sprinter Pin Wanheap in the men’s 100 metres when he came through the heats to make it to the final line up in a time of 11.09.
Though Pin Wanheap ran well above himself to record 10.91 in the final, it was only good enough to get him into seventh place. He now takes a shot at the 200m. Cambodia’s second entry in the men’s 100m, Sar Purveasna, showed up with 11.46 in the heats and failed to qualify.
The Kingdom’s athletics hopes now rest on Kieng Samorn in the metric mile and Takizaki Kuniaki in the marathon.