Cambodia's top kickboxers Touch Rachan – better known as Beut Sangkheum – as well as Lon Panha and Kan Meng Hong will compete in the final round of the kickboxing bouts on May 13. Each one is seeking the glory of claiming the first gold for the Kingdom at the ongoing 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Vietnam.
To earn their spots in the final, Sangkheum, Panha and Meng Hong all produced impressive performances in their respective weight categories to qualify for the last eight, and then to win their May 10 semi-finals bouts. In the finals, all three will face off against Thai or Vietnamese kickboxers.
In Tuesday night’s semi-final matches, Sangkheum became the first to bring joy to Cambodian fans, as he defeated Malaysian Seaw Wei Sheng by split round points in the 57kg category to book the first seat in the final.
Panha surprised everyone as he was able to come back and win his last two rounds, cancelling a 1-1 drawn first round and defeating Thai favourite Rodnok Ophat by split points in the 67kg class.
Young Cambodian kickboxer Meng Hong was singled out for special praise from his compatriots after his smart fight.
Although he lost the first round 3-0 to Malaysia’s Awang Marajaya Awangku Abdul Rahman, the young fighter stepped up his attack, rattling his opponent and forcing a standing count by the referee. The Cambodian kickboxer took the second round 3-0 and in the third round pressed his advantage for a clean 3-0 sweep.
In the gold medal matches, the three will be expected to work harder. Sangkheum faces Thai kickboxer Arunno Sivapan, who defeated his Lao opponent in the semi-finals. Meng Hong will also meet a Thai rival – Sungnoi Chaiwat – who thoroughly dominated the host nation’s Duong Danh Hoat 3-0 in all three rounds.
Panha will challenge Vietnam’s Nguyen The Huong, who knocked out Malaysia’s Kiang Athachai in the semi-finals.
Sorn Rakim missed out on the semi-finals after losing to Thai Santidongsakun Chaleamlap in the 63kg semi-final.
However, under the rules of the games, Rakim had already secured a bronze, which means he has recorded better results than his Cambodian compatriots Chut Van Thong, Kham Khla Neang as well as Nov Srey Pov and Touch Chanvattey, who all fell in the first eight qualifiers.
In other games’ news, Phorn Sophean and Chao Samrech became the first Cambodian athletes to win a medal at the 31st SEA Games after claiming bronze in the men’s doubles M2X rowing event on May 11. The gold medal went to the Indonesia, as the Thailand team went home with the silver.