The Cambodian national fencing team, which broke its medal drought during the 32nd SEA Games with a pair of bronzes, has begun preparing in earnest for a series of upcoming international competitions, said a Fencing Federation of Cambodia official.

This year’s challenges include the 31st Summer World University Games in Chengdu and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Nine men and four women were called up for the SEA Games squad, including Chhay Linly, who claimed a bronze in the women’s sabre individual event as well as the women’s sabre team event, alongside teammates Yi Liza, Sorn Nich and Pen Narita.

With Linly, Liza and Nich withdrawing from competition following their home soil SEA Games, the federation have fast tracked the development of two new athletes, adding them to the national team roster, and including them in the team’s punishing training regime.

Sok Ang, secretary-general of the fencing federation, said the team’s short-term preparation is focused on the upcoming 31st World University Games which will be held in Chengdu, China, from July 28 to August 8.

In addition, they are also considering their plan of action for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China from September 23 to October 8, the 6th Bangkok-Chonburi 2023 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in November and the World Youth Foil discipline Championships, in Bangkok, Thailand in December.

Ang explained that teams from all around the world will be contesting the university games. The Cambodian team’s goal is to pass the group stages and reach the final 32, which it admitted will be a challenge.

“Frequent competition in international events has provided the team with valuable experience. If we only compete within ASEAN, we will not meet the same level of competition, as within the region, only Vietnam and Singapore are strong. Beating weaker opponents will not teach our athletes anything – pushing them to compete with higher-ranked opponents will help them become truly strong,” he added.

He noted that Vietnam and Singapore were the dominant teams in the region for precisely this reason.

“They send their fencers to compete in high-level competitions as often as they can. This is how they were able to dominate at the recent SEA Games, with Singapore topping the fencing medal table with seven gold, three silver, and six bronze, and Vietnam in second with four gold, three silver, and three bronze,” he said.

“Training can give our sportsmen and women some techniques, and certainly builds their strength and endurance. However, competition requires not only endurance, but also tricks and strategies to break through the opponent’s defence and overcome them. To gain this experience, we need to compete abroad more often,” he added.

Ang revealed that increased international was a part of the federation’s strategy ahead of the 33rd SEA Games in 2025, which will be hosted by Thailand.

“We did not send our athletes abroad before this year’s Cambodian SEA Games. We have addressed this weakness in our strategy, and expect the team to travel to international events four or five times a year. This has to start now, if we want to see the benefits in time for the 2025 games,” he said.