Cambodia’s passion for the French obsession of petanque could well turn into a SEA Games sensation at the Jakabaring Sports Complex in Palembang when the Kingdom’s metal ball chuckers defend the two gold medals that came their way at the 2009 edition in Laos.
The squad, who departed for Indonesia yesterday, will be vying with two of the region’s petanque playing superpowers, Thailand and Laos, in quest for the 11 gold medals on offer. Cambodia successfully led a campaign along with Laos to get doubles and shooting categories included this year and will be fervently hoping that the boules will roll their way.
“Petanque has been one of our traditional strengths. It brought us two of our three gold medals in 2009 and we certainly can win a few more if our players live up to their potential,” said National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Secretary General Vath Chamroeun.
Like many French colonies, petanque has been introduced in Cambodia and Laos although both are relative late comers to the sport. Thailand, with no such colonial hangovers, have stolen a march over their regional arch rivals, topping the medals tally from the courts in 2007 and 2009.
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s three-member aerobic gymnastics team will be breaking into big league for the first time.
Hamstrung by the absence of an international judge and the non-availability of a proper aerobics sprung floor to train on, the Kingdom’s gymnasts have been making the best of limited resources, registering steady improvement in the last two years.
“This will be their biggest test,” head coach Nay Phonna told the Post yesterday. However, the trainer is optimistic that the team can deliver on the promise that surfaced at the second Asian Championship last December in Ho Chi Minh City.
“I am confident Sor Sopheng, Sum Srorn and Veas Sarith will perform well,” added the coach.
Kempo offers Cambodia’s exponents of this form of martial arts a fair chance to be among the medals, though the competition is expected to be stiff and fierce.
Traditionally, Cambodian fighters are endowed with the qualities that an unarmed combat sport like kempo demands, especially the grab and lock techniques, but the eight-member national squad will be up against some of the toughest fighters from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.
There has been a spurt of national activities in wushu this year, pointing to Cambodia’s gradual climb in this martial art form that originated in China. Nevertheless, the Kingdom’s wushu participants will by no means find the going easy in Indonesia.
Led by the indomitable Eduard Folayang, the Philippines, who topped the honours in the last two editions, are emerging as hot favourites to grab most medals with Malaysia staking claim for at least three golds.
Being an riparian state, boating has been part of Cambodia’s rural life for time immemorial. However, it remains to be seen how well the Cambodian oarsmen can turn that tradition into winning performances when they hit the water for the dragon boat racing competition.
“Most members of the team have grown up with competitive boating and it is almost in their blood. I expect them to do well,” said Vath Chamroeun, who is Chef de Mission of the Cambodian delegation.
Though Vietnam is considered as the home of Vovinam, neighbouring Cambodia’s rise in the sport has been phenomenal.
The Kingdom announced its arrival on the Vovinam stage as a leading force when its fighters took home two gold, five silver and five bronze medals at the 2nd World Vovinam Championships held in Vietnam two years ago.
Since then, Cambodia has grown in strength. On the administrative front, it took the lead in the formation of the Southeast Asian Vovinam Federation in Phnom Penh last year.
“The introduction of Vovinam as a medal sport is good for Cambodia and I am confident our fighters will show their mettle and bring home a couple of gold medals,” added the Chef de Mission.