The curtain officially goes up on the 28th SEA Games today with a high-tech opening ceremony at Singapore’s national stadium, the floor of which will be turned into a giant screen with 160 HD projectors beaming a three-hour visual spectacle that includes a 20-metre dragon flying just below the dome.
Singapore has returned as hosts of the Games for the third time after a gap of 22 years to mark the 50th Anniversary of its statehood, showcasing the 36-discipline event to the world at large and the region in particular as the “Celebration of the Extraordinary”.
Cambodia will compete in 22 of those disciplines, with its gold medal prospects dimmed by the absence of wrestling and vovinam, which accounted for the six of the eight gold medals from the 2013 Myanmar edition in what was the Kingdom’s best haul in the history of the games.
The four medals scooped from the mat and two captured by Vovinam Warriors were complemented by Ke Leng’s petanque gold and Sorn Seavmey’s taekwondo triumph.
While Ke Leng, who leads the march past during the opening ceremony as the standard bearer of the Cambodian contingent, is a leading gold prospect, Incheon Asian gold medalist Seavmey, who broke the country’s 70-year Asiad medal drought, is a non-starter since she could not fit herself into the given weight categories.
In a double blow, Seavmey’s elder sister Davin, a Myanmar silver medallist, was also in the same predicament.
“We now have to recalibrate our medal expectations. We hope petanque, boxing and chinlone [a display version of Sepaktakraw] can brings us glory. We are also expecting Takizaki Kuniaki, who took up Cambodian citizenship more than three years ago and won the inaugural Angkor Wat Marathon last August, to make a podium finish,’’ Cambodia’s chef de mission and secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee, Vath Chamroeun, said on his arrival in Singapore.
“Solid preparation was the key to our success in Myanmar, but this time our training time had to be drastically curtailed since the Games, traditionally held in November, had been moved up to June by Singapore,” Vath Chamroeun said. “In team disciplines, I hope tennis can retain at least the bronze medal they won in the Indonesian edition, and I expect our basketball team to do well this time.”
Taekwondo coach Choi Yong Sok, who has been guiding the fortunes of the Sorn sisters, said that his wards will deliver good performances.
“There is no question that we have talented youngsters in our squad. Some of them may not have competitive experience but I am confident they will do well,” said the South Korean, who calls Cambodia home away from home having spent nearly two decades in the Kingdom.
Tennis Cambodia secretary-general Tep Rithivit is also striking an optimistic note that Davis Cup pivot Bun Kenny and his teammates will do their best to wrest the only medal Cambodia has ever won in full-blown team events so far.
The team has an exciting new addition in French born Cambodian Delton Sophana Kim, who is a few months shy of turning 16, The other members of the team are Phalkun Mam and Long Samneang, who are both members of the Davis Cup squad.
Meanwhile, Cambodia will also be fielding its female tennis team in SEA Games competition for the first time in history.
American Cambodian Som Chenda, a teenager from New York will join French-Cambodian Andrea Ka, who made her debut in 2011 Indonesian edition, as the two open a new chapter for female tennis players of the Kingdom.
Basketball: With six American and two Canadian players of Cambodian decent filling in the roster, expectations of a good performance from the team are quite high.
Rugby: The national team is making its debut with coach Vannak Vireak and Team Leader Noun Leng expressing satisfaction over the preparations of the 10-men squad. The two officials feel that the lack of experience will be made up by the team’s fighting spirit.
Equestrianism: The experience drawn from their debut in Myanmar has made Cambodian riders more mature competitors two years on, according to team leader Mona Tep. The four members of the team are Phat Makara, Ly Sovanachandara, Lon Sopheaktra and Sim Narith taking part in the men’s team, mixed individual and mixed team dressage.
Fencing: Cambodia will also be entering the fencing competition for the first time, with coach Sok Ang leading four promising swordsmen pitched into men’s individual and team foil along with men’s team epee.