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Cambodia's swimmers out to make a splash

Pou Sovijja (left) and Hem Thon Vitiny are to represent Cambodia in swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Pou Sovijja (left) and Hem Thon Vitiny are to represent Cambodia in swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Sreng Meng Srun

Cambodia's swimmers out to make a splash

Cambodian swimmers Pou Sovijja and Hem Thon Vitiny are ready to showcase their abilities when they appear at the world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympic Games, which are to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next month.

They will compete in the 100m and 50m freestyle, respectively, at Rio 2016 after the Cambodia Swimming Federation received wild card invitations from the International Olympic Committee for the two categories.

Pou Sovijja, whose father is Cambodian and mother is Thai, said: “I am so excited to represent Cambodia at swimming [in the Olympics].”

The 21-year-old, who was born in Maryland in the United States, started swimming at 5 years old before honing his skills at Brown University.

“Four years ago, I was contacted by Hem Thon [the then general-secretary of the Cambodia Swimming Federation], and as being Cambodian is a big part of who I am, I decided to represent Cambodia on the world stage.

“I will swim as fast as I can and show the world about Cambodia swimming,” he added.

Sovijja is a member of the swimming team at the Ivy League Brown University in Rhode Island and he achieves good times there: “I placed top three in state in 2013” and is “usually in the top three” for his college team.

Sovijja said: “I am very happy and very honoured [and] I will do my best. I will try to set a new national record and win my heat. Thank you Cambodia for supporting me.”

This is not the first time Sovijja has represented Cambodia. He competed for the Kingdom at the Southeast Asia Games in 2013 in Myanmar and in Singapore in 2015 but did not win medals.

The current secretary-general of the swimming federation, Hem Kiri, believes he will get good results in Rio. “This year we are well prepared, and Sovijja is in good shape after training very hard in the US,” he said.

Kiri, who will fly to Rio with the Cambodian Olympic team, also expects female 50m freestyle swimmer Vitiny to record good times in Rio.

“Thon Vitiny did very well in her preparation event and in training. She spent a year training in Phuket in Thailand, where she impressively set a national record by becoming the first Cambodian woman to race the 50m freestyle in under 30 seconds,” Kiri said.

“So I really hope she will do well in Rio.”

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