In the days of celebration following the historic successes of 16-year-old Jessa Khan and 26-year-old Ou Moeut Saly in disciplines the Asian Games had never included in 17 previous editions, Cambodia’s sporting image had been burnished as never before.
The Kingdom had to wait for more than six decades to land gold in the continental event until Incheon 2014. But four years later and there are now at least two gold medals and a bronze coming home.
While thanking Prime Minister Hun Sen for his unwavering support to Cambodian sport, Jet Ski Federation president Nos Sles said he is determined to turn Saly’s gold into a lasting legacy so that Cambodia’s success on the sport’s Asiad debut can be built on.
“Our federation is just a year old. In that limited amount of time we have done everything humanly possible to get the best results and I am glad we were able to achieve such success,” Sles said.
“We have hired specialist mechanics from abroad and are fortunate to have a top-line coach like Chris Talakouras of Australia helping us.
“More than that, we had two riders whose commitment, discipline, attention to detail and hunger for learning were never in question.”
Until now, jet skiing to many was more of a fun show on the waterfront during either River or Sea Festivals and was never really thought of as a serious medal-winning prospect.
It is this striking transformation that will have made the sport a more thrilling and lucrative draw for Cambodian youth to pursue in the future.
“Khan’s success was a huge sensation because of her age and the courage and confidence she carried with her,” said National Olympic Committee of Cambodia general-secretary Vath Chamroeun.
“We are as much proud of her Cambodian lineage as she is of realising her dream of representing her motherland.
“She might have been born in Texas and trained in California, but when she sported our national colours her heart and soul were firmly with Cambodia. For such a young girl to have shown so much determination in a physically demanding sport like Brazilian Ju-jitsu, it is a performance beyond compare.
“It is our responsibility to safeguard the treasures Jessa Khan and Saly have brought us and keep our hold on these two disciplines by boosting their federations’ efforts in spreading interest among the younger generation.”
In line with the government’s sub-decree on rewarding outstanding performance on the international, continental and regional stages, including the Olympics, Asian Games, SEA Games, world championships and international meets, a gold medal winner will be guaranteed $20,000, silver $10,000 and bronze $6,000.
But with almost ritualistic regularity, Prime Minister Hun Sen has always opened his own wallet to reward these performances with substantial cash packets over the years. These Games will undoubtedly be no different.