Cambodian judoka Khom Ratanak Mony (in white) competes against Mexico’s Nabor Castillo during their men’s under-60kg first round match at the ExCel Centre in London on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Riley/Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia's first taste of action at the London Games was short and definitely not sweet as judoka Khom Ratanak Mony was given a harsh lesson on Saturday morning in his first round match of the men’s under-60kg competition at the ExCel Centre.
Mexico’s Nabor Castillo was awarded straight victory after just 46 seconds of their five-minute bout thanks to a successful execution of tai otoshi (body drop), which earned a decisive ippon (one full point).
The sheer frustration at such a costly mistake was clearly evident, with Mony beating the floor with his fist. Castillo went on to face Elio Verde of Italy, who beat him via a golden score ippon to progress to the quarterfinals.
“I had bad luck today,” said Mony with a resigned chuckle. “The Mexican fighter is not very famous in the world, but he has participated in many world and international championships. So, I think his standard is better than mine.
“His move on me was very unexpected, but I’m not angry at myself. I’m very new to this level and I did all I could do.”
The 29-year-old Cambodian, as with most other athletes involved in Saturday morning events, skipped the opening ceremony the night before to concentrate on competition. However, he revealed he was nursing a niggling knee injury coming into the tournament.
“I didn’t feel good at all today. I hust my knee in training three weeks ago as I was accelerating my training program due to my late call up to the Games,” he said. “I could have performed better if I was in better condition, but my knee was worrying me.”
Mony had not been in the ExCel Centre prior to his appearance.
“It was really great, and I can’t believe I had the chance to perform in front of so many people,” he said.
Dignitaries such as Prince Albert of Monaco and Armando Guebuza, the president of Mozambique, were in attendance on Saturday.
“Even though I lost, it’s not a problem. The experience can help me next time,” added the French-based judoka, while noting the need for a more organised and long-term training program in the build-up to his next proposed competition in Cambodian colours, the SEA Games in Yangon next year.
“If I want to compete again at a big event like this, I have to train more and more to be in better condition,” he said.
Mony confirmed that he had been asked to join the team in Myanmar by National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun.
“I’m so sorry to disappoint Cambodian fans, but if they want to see judo improve in the Kingdom they must help support and promote participation in the sport,” added Mony. “[I]f we have a lot of judokas in our country, we can increase our performance standard and be as strong as other nations here.
“So we have to get a lot more human resources and train many judokas, and the government must help provide equipment and facilities.”
Despite failing to last a minute on the mat against Castillo, Mony’s Olympic dream was not the shortest of the day with South Africa’s Eisa Majrashi taking just 8 seconds to score an ippon victory over Raul Lall of Guyana.
The biggest cheer of the morning came with the appearance of home nation hope Ashley McKenzie, who had it all to prove against world number two Hiraoki Hiraoka of Japan. A vociferous crowd spurred on the British underdog, who tried in vain to ruffle the visitor. Hiraoka stood firm and forced a few shido (minor) penalties before closing out the match in style with a perfectly timed seoi-nage ippon, which was well received by an attentive audience.
The 27-year-old Japanese man made it all the way to the final, where he was upset by world number five Arsen Galstyan of Russia, who recorded a superb ippon throw after just 40 seconds.
One other match of note on Saturday for Southeast Asian sports fans was the women’s under-48kg first round between Vietnam’s Van Ngoc Tu and Brazil’s Sarah Menezes. A cagey affair saw the Brazilian edge the contest with two yuko (minor) scores. Menezes went on to win the gold medal.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected] reporting from London