Cambodia's national team athletes across all sports who are scheduled to compete in the 32nd SEA Games in May will not be allowed to apply for leave during the upcoming traditional Khmer New Year holiday. Instead, they will be expected to focus on training to prepare for the regional biennial multi-sports event, hosted by the Kingdom for the first time in history.

At the awards ceremony for coaches and petanque players who won bronze medals from the World Championship Single, Doubles and Mixed Doubles matches 2022 in Denmark on March 1, Ouk Sithicheat, director-general of sports at the education ministry, requested all national teams, athletes and coaches to be patient and continue their training during the Khmer New Year from April 14-16.

"We all want to celebrate and take holidays on Khmer New Year, but we have been working hard for many years to prepare for the historic event, so if we are careless even just one week on Khmer New Year, then it is all over," he said.

"I urge coaches and athletes to be patient, train hard and not think about the New Year, and when we finish our work at the SEA Games, we can visit home or travel anywhere we desire.

"We have been working hard for a long time and the SEA Games are short, so we have to be highly committed to competing for medals because the leadership has given high confidence to the coaches and the athletes for this big competition," he said.

Nevertheless, all sports can organise meals together to celebrate the New Year holiday at their training sites, though they are prohibited from drinking alcohol as it can negatively impact the health of the athletes who have a big task ahead of them, he added.

Sok Mong, the coach of the Cambodia women's national petanque team, said he supported the decision of the ministry.

"I understand that in any other country, they would do the same when there is a big sporting event. They do not let the athletes go out because if … there is any danger to good athletes during that time, it will be difficult," he told The Post.

As a veteran coach with a lot of experience, Mong said that allowing athletes a break just ahead of match day will reduce the sharpness of their technique, making it difficult for them to compete for medals in the 2023 SEA Games from May 5-17.