With the 12th ASEAN Para Games set to kick off on June 3, National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia (NPCC) secretary-general Yi Veasna has predicted that the athletes of Team Cambodia will achieve excellent results.

He said the athletes are determined to take eight gold, 21 silver and 27 bronze medals at the games, in order to break the seven gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze record they set at the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia.

“We sent 105 sportsmen and women to compete in seven events at the games, but for our home event, we have named a squad of 252, and intend to contest all 14 events,” he explained.

“At earlier games, we typically placed ninth or tenth on the overall medal table, although in Indonesia we were able to secure seventh. As hosts, we have set sixth place as our target, although the team’s enthusiasm means we may be able to finish as high as fourth,” he added.

Veasna attended a May 29 “Beyond the Games” fundraising function at the Many Centre in Phnom Penh. The campaign, organised by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC), raised as much as 500 million riel ($125,000) from its origami paper heart campaign. The funds will be used the support the Para games’ squad.

Hun Many, head of the UYFC and chairman of the Commission for Cooperation and Coordination, along with the national organising committees for SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games (CAMSOC-CAMAPGOC), appreciated the campaign for bringing together a great many people from all across the Kingdom to support the team.

He said the athletes have trained hard and are prepared to compete as hard as they could on behalf of the Kingdom.

“The sum of 500 million riel sounds like a lot, but when it comes to the daily costs of the 12th ASEAN Para Games, it is insufficient. Nevertheless, whether the amount is large or small, every contribution counts. We wanted to do our part to support the para-athletes of Team Cambodia,” he added.

Many also encouraged them to compete as hard as possible, but reminded them of the importance of sportsmanship and playing by the rules.

“The men’s seated volleyball team will have to stay focused if they want to defend their gold medal position, as I believe a strong Thai team consider themselves favourites. The Myanmar team was once very strong, but now come to us for advice,” he said.

“We should be striving for as many medals as possible, but what is more important is that as hosts, our guests get to see the spirit of fair competition that lies in Khmer hearts,” he added.

Sok Sabayna, executive director of the Beyond the Games campaign, regarded the origami paper heart campaign as a success, noting that thousands of Cambodians had participated by folding as many of the hearts as they could. Each heart earned 500 riel.

“The athletes are committed to achieving their dreams, and it is our privilege to express our solidarity with them. The heart and soul of the Cambodian people is behind them,” he added.