The 2018 World Champion ascended the podium twice on November 12, at the PCA Elite Classic, held at the Elite Gym in Pattaya.

Sophorn could barely contain his joy as he placed second in the Classic Physique Open Category. With a highly competitive field of 13 experienced participants, his silver medal-winning performance served as a valuable source of motivation and mental strength for him as prepared to compete in the Men’s Physique Open category, held hours later on the same day.

He went live on Facebook to share his excitement at the victory.

“Brothers and sisters, I have secured second place! I am truly thrilled and delighted with this outcome. The participants in this category were incredibly formidable, and the first-place winner happens to be a friend of mine, who I competed with five years ago in the ‘ASEAN Bodybuilding Championships’ in Siem Reap”, he said.

The 28-year-old was not done celebrating, as he went on to claim gold in his second event.

“I am thrilled to announce that today I have achieved a gold medal in Men’s Physique Open and a silver medal in Classic Physique Open. These two medals symbolise not only my personal achievements, but also those of the Cambodian people,” he said.

He explained that he believed the victories belonged to the Cambodian people, as without their support and encouragement he would not have been able to win.

His well-known brothers, Sambo Nun – an ASEAN gold medalist – and Sambo Nan – the first Cambodian to win gold at a world champs – shared their joy at their brother’s achievements, noting that the entire family has dedicated years to the sport.

“Success can only be attained through collective efforts! I have guided my younger brother to this year’s destination. Will there be more competitors next year? Let’s wait and see what 2024 brings,” said his elder brother Nun, now a bodybuilding coach.

Prime Minister Hun Manet also took to social media to congratulate Sophorn.

“Congratulations to Cambodian bodybuilder Sambo Sophorn who won one gold (Men’s Physique Open category) and one silver medal (Classic Physique Open category) at the PCA Elite Classic bodybuilding championships in Thailand,” he wrote, on November 13.

Despite the plaudits, the burden of representing Cambodia without sponsors for several years has taken a toll on Sophorn’s finances. Without additional support from philanthropists and the private sector, he may have to consider putting his career on hold for a period of two years.

Prior to his departure for Thailand, he spoke about his fears.

“I have never been disheartened by defeats or challenges. The one factor that might lead me to consider suspending my competition is financial. This sport requires significant expense. If people continue to love, support, and assist me with the costs of food and travel, I may be able to go on,” he said.

The sport requires a large budget for training, especially in preparation for each competition. He spends money on vitamins, supplements and massages, as well as steam treatments and cold water baths, in order to prevent muscle pain. In addition, his daily meals cost at least $30 per day. Since beginning preparations for the IFBB Muscle Contest in Vietnam in mid-October, Sophorn has spent nearly $10,000.

“To get ready for the Vietnam competition, I spent $8,000 solely on food and supplements. This excludes application fees and airfare. After the Thailand comp, my total expenses have climbed over $10,000, as I spend more than $2,000 per month. I have had to borrow money from others as I do not have sufficient funds to cover these expenses,” he explained.

Sophorn does not want to abandon his career, and will continue to represent the Kingdom if he can secure sponsorship.

“My dedication to bodybuilding stems from my heart. I love my sport, so I don’t want to give up. I want to continue showcasing the capabilities of Cambodians to foreigners. All of my efforts so far – and those of my family – have been for the country,” he said.