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Cambodians ready to set sail

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Cambodian sailing team support staff prepare a sail at the 2018 Asian Games sailing venue in Indonesia. AFP

Cambodians ready to set sail

Tje three members Cambodian sailing team are ready for their Asian Games bow on Friday in Jakarta Bay for the first of the 12 scheduled races spread over six days in search of at least a medal or two in a sport that has grown rapidly in the Kingdom over the past three years.

After Thursday’s team leaders’ meeting in the morning and a practice race later in the day, the competition, which serves as a qualification event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in certain categories, will also see the end of the Olympic RSX-class era after Paris 2024 announced it won’t be included.

From the Cambodian perspective, 16-year-old Soth Mesa, who has been training hard under elite Chinese coaches in the company of some of the best sailors in China since May, harnessing the wind on a newly purchased RSX as the first from the Kingdom will be an unforgettable experience of his life.

The teenager from Ream, near Sihanoukville, sat out as a reserve at last year’s SEA Games in Malaysia, but his transformation from being an energetic raw talent into an adventurous and skilful sailor has now thrust him to the forefront as the prime choice ahead of his friend and teammate Heng Heang, who also did the long stint in China with Mesa.

“When we visited Haiman Water Training Base in Shantou, Guangdong, a few months ago we were happy to learn that the CSF team had also been invited for a three week training with top-notch Chinese sailors at the Guangdong Ocean Center in Shanwei. We were thrilled. and the results since have been amazing,” said Singaporean CSF advisor Meng Wang.

‘Sky is the limit’

“Our boys are fortunate to be in such esteemed company and train with members of the Chinese national team. The feedback has been very encouraging. I am looking forward to Cambodia’s grand debut in sailing at these Asian Games,” said CSF President Gordon Tang, who has gone several nautical miles extra to ensure that the team receiving the best of everything including equipment and care.

“I hope our sailors strive hard and present themselves as good ambassadors for Cambodia, while inspiring hundreds of others back home to promote this glorious sport. I believe that the sky is the limit for our boys.

“We have tried our best to give them everything they need,” added Tang, who is also vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC).

Aside from footing the enormous cost of training abroad, the CSF chief has also invested heavily in purchasing quality equipment, including a brand new RSX windsurfing board with these Asian Games in mind.

“To improve sailing in Cambodia, we need to give our sailors exposure at the highest levels of competition. Coupled with overseas training and inviting world-class coaches, the CSF will also be pushing hard to catch up with some of the regional powerhouses like Thailand and Singapore,” said Rathasak Thon, vice-president of the CSF and son of NOCC president Thong Khon.

“Hopefully we can cause some positive ripples at the Ancol Marina and grab the attention of the world as a fast emerging nation that has done wonders in just the three years since the federation was formed and with World Sailing recognition obtained less than a year ago,” Rathasak Thon said.

While the Focus of attention will be Mesa and his RSX, Duch Bunthuoeun, a naval officer at the Ream base, will be competing in the Laser Standard.

During his month-long stint in Malaysia he managed to place third at the KFC-MCC Sarawak Open Regatta in Malaysia. His positive attitude and discipline have been counted as his strongest assets.

Relatively inexperienced Nhov Chan earned a place in the team for his courage and natural flair for sailing.

The CSF’s greatest ambition, as reflected by its president’s repeated calls, is for the team to uphold the dignity of the country and hopefully see one of them qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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