Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia’s Sovijja puts up brave Olympic fight




Cambodia’s Sovijja puts up brave Olympic fight

Cambodia’s Pou Souvijja (in purple trunks) dives into the pool in lane 7 in the men’s 100 metres freestyle Heat 2 on Tuesday. Photo supplied
Cambodia’s Pou Souvijja (in purple trunks) dives into the pool in lane 7 in the men’s 100 metres freestyle Heat 2 on Tuesday. Photo supplied

Cambodia’s Sovijja puts up brave Olympic fight

Cambodian swimmer Pou Sovijja found himself in at the deep end in the men’s 100 metres freestyle Heat 2, finishing last but one among eight contestants in a time of 54.55 seconds at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Tuesday.

The 21-year old US-born Games debutant dived into lane 7 to a fairly good start, in fourth after the first 20 metres. But when the race came to the boil at the halfway mark, Souvijja alarmingly dropped to seventh, finishing ahead of only Gurung Sirish of Nepal.

The line-up attracted the world’s attention as one of two Syrians in the refugee team, Anis Rami, was a competitor. He finished sixth, 0.3sec ahead of Sovijja, with 54.25sec.

The field included Sri Lanka’s Abeysinghe Matthew Duncan, Nicaragua’s Mena Miguel, Malta’s Chetcuti Andrew, Mozambique’s Mogne Igor and Zimbabwe’s Sean Michael Gunn.

“I was a little nervous going in there but then I pushed my hardest to get a good time and it was fine,” Sovijja said after the race.

“It was crazy out there,” the US-based swimmer said of the atmosphere as he walked out for his Olympic debut. “It was awesome to walk out and hear all these people clapping and yelling. I really took in that moment, and that memory will remain with me forever.”

The entire Cambodian contingent was by the pool to cheer Sovijja on, and it will again be in full force on Friday when Hem Thon Vitiny, the only member of the squad with previous Olympic experience, lines up in a tough women’s 50m freestyle heat.

“I have now been here for over a week. I have tried my best to adjust to the conditions here. The facilities have been good,” Vitiny said. “I am looking forward to my event. I know it’s hard to compete against the world’s best, but l will do my best.”

While members of the Cambodian camp put on a small party to celebrate marathon runner Neko Hiroshi’s 39th birthday, the Kingdom’s first-ever female Olympic marathon runner Nary Ly was pounding miles for Sunday’s 42km run.

The 43-year-old Nary Ly has been training in Kenya for the past several months, and she flew directly from her training base to Rio.

“Excited but a little bit anxious and nervous,” is how she described her feelings as it dawns on her that an Olympic run is no longer a dream but a reality waiting to happen.

“The more we get closer to marathon day, the more nervous I will be. But now l just try to stay away from the entertainment and fun of being here and try to stay focused and get more rest outside my training program,” said Ly, who started out running for fun before becoming passionate about the discipline.

Meanwhile, taekwondo star Sorn Seavmey has stepped up preparations with coach Choi Yong Sok as the 21-year-old Asian gold medallist’s date with Olympic destiny gets nearer. The toughest fight of her life, which will also be the biggest in the Kingdom’s sporting history, is billed for August 20.

But early next week, it will be wrestler Chov Sotheara’s turn to seize the Olympic moment. The 33-year-old goes out as the first female wrestler to represent Cambodia, and only the second ever at an Olympics after Vath Chamroeun, the current secretary-general of the NOCC.

She has made up her mind that this will be her final competitive appearance, and as her coach Thin Vichet said before setting out, she will not go down without a fight.

The goal that NOCC has set for the six athletes is to perform better than they have done before. The NOCC assigned press attache Ken Gadaffi to gauge the mood of the team members as to what is going through their minds.

“I think the Cambodian athletes are working very hard but they are obviously nervous. “This is understandable as the entire team, except for Vittiny, is making their Olympic debut and watching the world’s best athletes train and dine together. Surely this sends shivers down their spines,” Gadaffi said as his assessment.

“However, the coaches and officials have been trying to motivate them and get them focused. We believe anything can happen with determination. The goal is to better previous records in each discipline and that would be a huge result,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • CNRP activist freed; Sam Rainsy pledges return to Kingdom

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday released former CNRP activist Oeur Narith on bail after the court ended its questioning on suspicion of receiving money from abroad and plotting to overthrow the government, according to the authorities. National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun confirmed