The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia was buzzing with excitement this morning after receiving news that judoka Khom Ratanakmony had been granted a Tripartite Commission Invitation Place to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The 29-year-old SEA Games silver medalist, who is based in the French northwestern port city of Brest, became the second Cambodian to be handed a ticket to London by the International Olympic Committee’s Tripartite Commission after taekwondo ace Sorn Davin.
They join two athletes and two swimmers in the now six-strong squad for the Games.
"The NOCC is thankful to the IOC for this Universality placement. The Olympic Solidarity has been very supportive and this entry for a judo competitor to the Olympics for the first time in Cambodian history is very encouraging," NOCC Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday. “We are determined to make the best use of these opportunities. We would like to see Cambodian competitors in more and more Olympic disciplines.”
Khom Ratanakmony grabbed a silver medal at the 2011 SEA Games held in Indonesia last November thanks to an impressive run in the men’s 50-55 kilogram judo competition.
He lost the gold medal final match against host nation favourite Toni Iravan at the Kelapa Gading Judo Center in Jakarta.
Ratanakmony, who started out as a wrestler before switching codes to the Japanese martial art of judo, will continue to train in France before joining up with the rest of the Cambodian delegation in London on July 23.
He is slated to be entered into the lightest of the weight categories for men, the under-60 kilogram class, the entire competition of which will be held on Saturday July 28, a day after the opening ceremony.
The current world number one at the weight is Uzbek judoka Rishod Sobirov.
The NOCC had sent Ratanakmony to Prague in the Czech Republic in February to compete in the 2012 EJU Men’s World Cup, which served as a qualifying tournament for the Summer Olympics.
However, the Cambodian failed to get past the preliminary round, losing to Orkhan Safarov of Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, the NOCC bid farewell today to taekwondo hopeful Sorn Davin, who was departing the capital to participate in a month-long training camp in London ahead of her Olympics appearance.
"[I’m] really excited,” the 21-year-old told the Post. “I am working on building my strength at the moment. The ring [in London] will be very big and the audience huge so I am very pleased to be able to prepare there."
Sorn Davin had previously been taken to South Korea to compete in tournaments in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 by her Korean coach Choi Young Sok.
Despite her experience in international competitions, including winning a silver medal at the 2011 SEA Games, the young combat specialist from Phnom Penh says she is not sure of her prospects in the women’s over-67 kilogram division, which will play out on August 11 at the tail end of the Games.
With her family unable to afford to accompany her to London, Davin will train by herself until coaches Choi Young Sok and Hem Samnang join her at the start of the Olympics.
Whatever her result, Sorn Davin will remain a leading light of the sport for females in Cambodia.
“Now taekwondo is really popular, more than before,” she said. “They didn't used to like to see girls fight, but that is changing.”