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Cambodia win 'easy' golds

Cambodia win 'easy' golds

091214_23
Athletes and supporters cheer on the Cambodian petanque players during the men’s and women’s singles finals in Vientiane on Friday. AFP

The Kingdom continues its success story in petanque with two golds and two silvers from men’s and women’s singles

Vientiane

CAMBODIA had a good weekend in the petanque courts, taking two golds, a silver and a bronze. Sok Chanmean stormed to first place in the men’s singles, edging Malaysia’s Mohd Firdaus Adli 13-11 in Friday’s final. The 27-year-old Cambodian, who won gold in men’s shooting at the 2007 SEA Games, had topped his qualifying group with three wins and a loss to Laotian Phonepasert Soukkh. However, Sok Chanmean got his revenge on the local lad with a 13-6 victory in the semifinals Friday morning to progress to the final.

“I’m so happy with my second gold medal from the SEA Games,” said Sok Chanmean. “Even when my opponent led 11-5 [in the final], I still didn’t panic. I focused hard on the game, so I could do it.”

“Malaysia are now strong in petanque,” he added. “But Cambodia are still ahead.”

In the women’s singles event, held at the same time, Ouk Sreymom repeated on her silver-medal feat from the previous SEA Games, with a heartbreaking 13-12 loss to Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Hien in their final. “I tried my best, but I lost the [gold medal] chance,” Ouk Sreymom said apologetically. The 34-year-old had finished top of her preliminary group with a perfect four wins from four, before cruising past Laotian Souksakhone Sengch 13-4 in the semifinals.

The singles finals were attended by a vocal Cambodian contingent, mainly comprised of fellow athletes, who had turned up to support the event considered one of the Kingdom’s strongest, shouting: “Cambodia si phoy, Cambodia si phoy,” meaning Cambodia wins easily.

Saturday saw the culmination of the petanque shooting competition, with the Kingdom grabbing a gold and bronze in the men’s and women’s events respectively.

Heng Than, who celebrated his 24th birthday last Wednesday, triumphed over Malaysia’s Nuzul Azwan 48-19 in the men’s final. The Cambodian showed great skill in front of hundreds of spectators, scoring points from nearly every shot he made, making it very difficult for his opponent to follow.

Heng Than had struggled in his preliminary group, placing fourth and having to play an extra round to make the semifinals, where he beat Tran Anh Ngoc of Vietnam 27-17.

“I recognised during the preliminary round I was in a difficult situation,” admitted Heng Than, noting difficulty in adapting to the playing conditions. “But I was not afraid of my rivals. It was my personal problem.

“For the final round, I thought: I’m here for gold, so I can control the game well. I easily beat the Malaysian. I’m so happy that I got the gold medal in my first experience of international competition.”

Em Pisey got off to a similarly slow start in her women’s shooting preliminaries. After placing last in the group of five countries, the 30-year-old made the most of her second chance in the next round to score 33 points, ahead of Malaysian on 30 points, and Laos on 32 points. However, she was stopped in the semifinals 20-11 by Thailand’s Pacharin Sanjumna, to take home the bronze.

“I don’t what to say,” Em Pisey said afterwards. “I couldn’t control myself well. If I didn’t have this problem, I could’ve won gold. I have to learn more about how to control my emotions.”

Em Heang, head coach of the national team, said he was expecting to improve on the Kingdom’s previous medals tally of two golds, two silver and two bronze in Thailand in 2007.

“We hope to win more medals in the next seven events because many athletes are medalists from the last SEA Games,” he asserted. “I know my students, especially the new ones, have problem with their sentiments when they are on the field. We keep trying to assure them that when they are on the field, they are the best ones, so no need to be afraid.”

The coach also noted that the government’s subdecree, which grants successful SEA Games athletes cash prizes for their achievements, was one of the biggest motivators for the team members.

The petanque team now look to add to their tally with success in today’s doubles finals. The men’s doubles finished Sunday’s preliminaries bottom of their group, while the women’s doubles and mixed doubles both finished in second place. Triples competitions play from Tuesday through Friday.

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