Cambodia's Khom Ratanak Mony (in blue) trains with his judo coach Philippe Urvoy of France during a session at Redbridge Sports Centre in Essex on Tuesday. Photograph: Dan Riley/Phnom Penh Post
The London Olympics are finally upon us and we can expect some prodigious pageantry from tomorrow’s opening ceremony. The Cambodian delegation will proudly parade around the Olympic Stadium in their designer suits and hope the thousands of spectators that turn out for the spectacle inspire them to personal greatness in their chosen events.
Despite the scheduled theatrics and monumental fireworks display, one Cambodian athlete will be forgiven if his mind drifts to a more pressing matter at hand, his judo competition barely hours after the late night finish.
Khom Ratanak Mony is set to feature in the Men’s under-60kg event at North Arena 2 of the ExCel sports complex from 10am (4pm Cambodian time) on Saturday.
The 29-year-old, who grew up in Phnom Penh but moved to Brest in France in 2006, admitted he was “afraid” of performing on such a grand stage but felt good about his training and preparation for the Games. Due to work and school commitments – he is two years into a three-year Business Management course at the University of Western Brittany and works part time as a nursery school assistant – Mony is unable to fully devote himself to his sport of choice.
“I do as much judo as I can,” he told the Post after his training session at Redbridge Leisure Centre in Essex on Tuesday. Mony has trained with his French coach Philippe Urvoy for an hour every day at the centre since arriving on Monday evening. He has also kept in shape with runs and weight lifting at the Olympic Village and will look to easily shed the 300 grams he carried above his event’s weight limit on Tuesday.
The judoka noted his style was constantly changing as he picked up new techniques from studying international competitions. “When I see something new, I try it out. I work on it,” he said.
“Then I will choose the style of my own. Everybody cannot do the technique the same way, so we have to train and create our own style.” Favourite moves of Mony’s include the ippon seoinage (one arm shoulder throw) and kata guruma (shoulder wheel throw), as well as general groundwork skills know as ne waza.
Although this will be his first Olympic Games, the Cambodian has already tasted international success at last year’s SEA Games in Indonesia where he won the silver medal in Men’s 50-55kg division. Shaking off the effects of a stomach bug throughout the day, Mony managed to beat two opponents on the way to losing the final against Indonesia’s Tony Irawan.
Could he have won gold on another day? “Of course,” he replied without
“The Indonesian couldn’t score any points against me and I couldn’t trip him either. We were equal. The judges gave it to him. For the next SEA Games in Myanmar, I will look for the gold.”
Mony said having his coach with him at the Yangon Games would be an essential requirement for his participation after experiencing difficulties at the 2012 Judo World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic, in late February this year. Forced to travel on his own and with just over a month of preparation time, he struggled to compete, losing in the first round against Azerbaijan’s Orkhan Safarov.
“The World Cup is the biggest [annual] event in judo. The organizing committee said this year was the biggest in history. I saw world title holders all around me and I’m just the new guy on discovering international judo. I did my best, but I lost,” he said.
Mony’s coach Urvoy is a 30-year veteran of the sport but makes his first trip abroad to an international event. The 41-year-old Frenchman is sensei (instructor) at the Dojo Brestois club where Mony trains and has competed in numerous national championships at home during his competitive years. Urvoy is a fifth Dan grade black belt, whereas Mony hopes to obtain his second Dan next.
Initial thoughts on the standard of the Olympic Village seemed generally positive, with the Cambodian contingent housed together in the same house, which was described as clean and modern.
“However, when we ask for something we have to wait a while,” added
The chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s top athletes has not been wasted, with Mony posting a photo on facebook of himself with Japanese wrestling legend Saori Yoshida, who won Olympic golds in Women's Freestyle 55 kg at the last two Games and has never failed to grab top spot at the World Championships since she first entered in 2002.
Mony’s opponent for the first round in London was named as 21-year-old Nabor Castillo of Mexico after the draw was held this morning.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected] reporting from London