As Indonesia prepares for the closing ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang with a powerful, all-embracing message of “the Energy of Asia” late on Sunday night, the history-making Cambodian contingent are set to land at Phnom Penh airport at around 6pm on Monday, including the Kingdom’s newly crowned gold medallists 16-year old Jessa Khan and 26-year-old Ou Moeut Saly, who with teammate Mustan Min also brought home a bronze.
In its nearly seven decades of participation in the Asiad, three medals, including the two golds, set a historic high after taekwondo star Sorn Seavmey ended the country’s long and painful wait for a gold medal four years ago.
She failed to get past her quarter-finals in this edition and left the athletes’ village in the first week of the competition.
But a tantalising twist awaited the Kingdom in what will be chronicled in Cambodian sport for a long time as an unforgettable second week.
“I am excited. I can not wait to get back to Cambodia” said Texas-born teenager Khan, who pursued the dreams of her Cambodian father to represent the country of his origin, which he left under dire circumstances like millions during those dark days of war to settle in California.
Her disciplined upbringing and the freedom to choose what she wanted to be led her to the exciting sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which has often been seen as a fighting style ideal to help women defend themselves.
In an interview for the NOCC Olympic Channel in the company of Cambodian jiu-jitsu team leader and secretary-general of the Federation Jayson Panathong at the Athletes village yesterday, host Ken Gadaffi asked Khan of the secret behind the inner strength she displayed in fight after fight – five of them in all.
‘We look forward to more success’
Clearly more a girl of action than words, Khan said faith in her self was what drove her passion each time she faced an opponent.
About her fighting style, she said had a unique attitude in that she would like to play a mind game where she invites aggression rather than display it herself.
“I had this feeling that I would do well and I am glad I ended up doing well for myself, my family and the country I am so proud to represent."
Federation chief Panathong said: “Age, talent, motivation and that streak of patriotism are all on her side, and we look forward to more and more success stories from her.”
Panathong went on to add that he could now unhesitatingly say that her success would inspire a generation of girls and continue to be a source of great encouragement.
“We want this sport to be spread all round the country and just not be confined to Phnom Penh. We are working with two NGOs, who can fit in sports as an extracurricular activity and they have been helping the federation carrry out training programmes. We intend to gradually expand upon this.
“[Khan] will no doubt be the darling of the crowds when she lands back in Cambodia [on Monday]. Her ever-smiling demeanour and enthusiasm and energy will definitely help promote jiu-jitsu, especially among the younger generation.”