Cambodia’s sole Rio 2016 hope Van Vun is set to begin his Paralympic odyssey on Saturday morning when he competes in the T54 wheelchair 100m at the Olympic Stadium.
With entry as an International Paralympics Committee wild card, this is his first time at the world’s biggest sporting event after a registration dispute denied him the chance to compete at the 2012 London Paralympics.
“I am very proud to represent Cambodia at the Paralympics because it is the biggest stage on which to compete.”
Vun is modest as to his chances, but he promises to do his best.
“This is the peak of international sport so there are many great athletes from all over the world. And this is also the first time for me to take part in the Paralympics so my expectations are not too high, but I believe in myself,” he said.
Vun, who carried the Cambodian flag at the Rio 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony, said he is in good shape after training every day since arriving in Brazil.
He told the Post yesterday: “I don’t have any problems with the food and accommodation because there is also Asian food here. I spend every morning and evenings training, so I am ready.”
Vun is gearing up for his Paralympic challenge after winning honours for the Kingdom at regional events.
Cambodia’s most successful para-athlete began wheelchair racing in 2007, and joined the national team in 2011. In that year he won a silver medal at his first ASEAN ParaGames appearance in Indonesia in the T53 wheelchair 100m.
Two years later he stunned everyone by winning all five of the events he participated in at the ASEAN ParaGames in Myanmar, taking gold in the T53 wheelchair 100m, 200m and 400m, as well as silver in the 4x100m and 4x400m. In the ASEAN Para-Games in Singapore last year, he won a bronze medal after moving to the T54 classification wheelchair 100m.
Kandal native Van Vun, who lost the use of his legs after contracting polio as a child, said: “I want all Cambodians to support the Paralympians of the country the same way they support athletes in the Summer Olympics.”
His trainer Yi Sopheaktra told the Post: “I hope Van Vun will perform well. He trains very hard and we don’t have any problems. We are ready for this competition.”
Vun is scheduled to take part in the men’s 100m T54 round 1 heats on Saturday morning from around 5am Cambodian time.