Against a backdrop of limited funding and training opportunities, Cambodia's star quartet found hope and motivation competing alongside the world's greatest athletes
DESPITE returning home from the Beijing Olympics without any medals, Cambodia's athletes are determined to train harder and say they are optimistic about their future.
Cambodia's Olympic delegation, which included marathon runner Hem Bunting, sprinter Sou Titlinda, and swimmers Hemthon Vitiny and Hemthon Ponleou, arrived home from Beijing Monday night.
Hem Bunting, 25, who placed 73rd against 94 other runners in the 42-kilometre marathon, was back on the track Tuesday training towards his goal of breaking his personal record at the 2009 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Laos.Â
"The Olympics were completely different from any other competition I have been in. It is so amazing," Hem Bunting told the Post after a training session at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium.
"It is fantastic for me to have had the chance to participate in a world competition. I learned a lot from the experience."
Hem Bunting recounted his performance in the highest-level field he's faced to date, saying he was thrown off his pace after 37 kilometres by severe pain in his legs. "Things stabilised after that and I continued until the end," he said.
"My experience in Beijing has encouraged me to train even harder.
I trained hard before the olympics but people from other countries trained twice as much as me.
"I trained hard before the Olympics but people from other countries trained twice as much as me," he added. Â
Against the odds
Running coach Chay Kimsan said that even though Hem Bunting and Sou Titlinda, who placed 70th out of 85 runners in the women's 100m sprint, did not win any medals, he was happy with their performances, which were made against extreme odds.
"It is not easy for Cambodia to compete with other countries," Chay Kimsan said.Â "Even though we do not have enough materials and a proper place to train, they have tried their best."
Swimmer Hemthon Vitiny, who placed 80th out of 92 participants in the women's 50m freestyle, said she felt both nervous and excited to compete in such a big event against so many swimmers from around the world.
"I had never swam in a pool as pretty as the Beijing pool," she said, referring to the state-of-the-art "Water Cube" complex.
"In Cambodia we do not have the possibility to swim in a pool of that caliber," she saod.
Hem Thon, secretary general of the Khmer Swimming Amateur Federation, said that during the Games King Norodom Sihamoni had visited the accommodation of the Khmer team and presented them with gifts.
"Our equipment is not up to standard," Hem Thon said. "However, some other stronger Asean nations with better facilities did not win any medals either."
The Cambodian team looked more impressive competing at the Olympic Games than in local and regional competitions, said Meas Sarin, secretary general of National Olympic Committee of Cambodia. "We have improved but we still need better facilities and more training."