28-year-old Cambodian Sok Sopheak, aka Polo, claimed his best-ever placing of fourth in the 2009 Asia Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships in Thailand
CAMBODIAN body builder Sok Sopheak, also known as Polo, has finally seen all his hard work payoff, claiming fourth in the 2009 Asia Bodybuilding and Fitness Championship held August 11-17 in Pattaya, Thailand.
Despite failing to make the podium, he was delighted with his best-ever placing in an international event.
Training out of Phnom Penh's Rama Fitness Club, Sok Sopheak entered the competition at the 1.65-metre division of the Men's Classic Body category. Iran's Seyed Roohollah Mirnoorollahi took the gold medal, with Daljit Singh of India coming second and Thailand's Kittipong Jansuwan taking third.
Polo, who has adjusted his weight between 60 and 75 kilograms to suit his competitions, has never gained such a good placing in overseas competition. In the same tournament last year, he ranked ninth in Men's Body Building category, while at the 2007 South East Asia Championships, he took eighth in the same classification.
Polo explained that experience from previous events has helped him significantly to improve his placings.
"I didn't know clearly what food was necessary for bodybuilding," he said. "But experiences from several competitions, and through acquaintance with foreign bodybuilders, I got to know how to eat properly."
Polo remembered meeting a Thai athlete in Hong Kong last year, who set him straight on the correct way to balance his diet. "He told me what food to eat and what not to eat."
The 28-year-old Cambodian expressed his pleasure at achieving at something that came out of his own effort, thanking the encouragement of Cambodian youngsters around him.
Rama Fitness club owner Ky Sao, who recommended Polo to travel to Pattaya to join the competition, applauded the bodybuilder's success, saying: "This is the pride of Cambodian sportsmen."
Polo said he had gone through various difficulties in building up his body and attending international competitions, initially without the support of sponsors. However, support from Paul Chua, secretary general of Asia Body Building and Fitness Federation, and Pakpong Kriangsa, director of the Thailand Fitness Federation, eventually allowed him to participate.
Moreover, Polo noted that his food requirement was extremely expensive, with six daily meals including eggs, fish, vegetables, fruit and chicken breast, costing between US$15 and $20 per day. "My mother always scolded me because she was not sure what my money was spent on when she gave it to me," Polo revealed.
Unfortunately, the Cambodian received no cash prize for his fourth rank, with just the prestige and a medal to reward his efforts.
Kong Phalla, secretary of the Cambodian Fitness Federation, acknowledged that the institution was lacking in funds to support the daily fees incurred by its registered athletes, stating there was not even enough to subsidise travel and accommodation costs. However, he praised Polo's achievement, saying: "The result of Sopheak makes me pleased."
Polo is now hoping to attend the World Body Building Championship in Dubai in November, although he has yet to confirm whether he will receive sufficient funding to go.