The Cambodian SEA Games contingent paraded through Phnom Penh on Sunday, having returned from Vientiane with a improved haul of 40 medals
SEA GAMES MEDALISTS
-Gold – Heng Than – Men’s shooting
-Gold – Sok Chanmean – Men’s singles
-Silver – Duong Dina, Or Chan Daren – Mixed doubles
-Silver – Heng Tha, Songvat Chakriya, Ya Chandararith – Mixed triples one woman and two men
-Silver – Ouk Sreymom – Women’s singles
-Bronze – Chao Ratana, Kim Vanna, So Randyne – Men’s triples
-Bronze – Khem Sopheak, Paou Chhouk Rath, Un Sreya – Mixed triples one man and two women
-Bronze – Duong Dina, Ke Leng – Women’s doubles
-Bronze – Em Piseth – Women’s shooting
-Bronze – Keo SoVanna, Nop Chhalika, Oum Chantrea – Women’s triple
-Gold – Chov Sotheara – Women’s 45kg
-Silver – Chum Chivinn – Men’s 120kg
-Silver – Chum Chivinn – Men’s 120kg Greco–Roman
-Silver – Try Sothavy – Women’s 51– 55kg
-Bronze – Dorn Saov – Men’s 74kg Greco–Roman
-Bronze – Chey Channreaksmey – Women’s 48–51kg
-Bronze – Dorn Saov – Men’s 74–84kg
-Silver – Chhoy Bouthorn – Men’s flyweight
-Silver – Sorn Elit – Men’s heavyweight
-Silver – So Naro – Men’s middleweight
-Bronze – Chhoeung Puthearim – Women’s featherweight
-Bronze – Cheang Bunna – Women’s lightweight
-Bronze – Sorn Davin – Women’s middleweight
-Bronze – Cheat Khemara – Men’s individual kata
-Silver – Phal Sophat – Men’s featherweight
-Bronze – Ven Diaman – Men’s pinweight
-Bronze – Svay Ratha – Men’s light welterweight
-Bronze – Hin Saiheng – Men’s welterweight
-Bronze – Ei Phouthang – Men’s light heavyweight
-Bronze – Soeur Vannak, Chhin Vitou – Men’s doubles
-Bronze – Heng Rawut – Men’s singles
-Bronze – Soeur VaNnak, Chhin Vitou, Hour Sopharith – Men’s team
-Bronze – Chhin Vitou, San Sopheap – Mixed doubles
-Bronze – Chea Sreymeas, San Sophorn – Women’s doubles
-Bronze – Chea Sreymeas – Women’s singles
-Bronze – Soeur Vannak, Chhin Vitou, Hour Sopharith – Women’s team
-Bronze – Tan Narith – Men’s 52kg Sanshou
-Bronze – Sin Saksunnara – Men’s 56kg Sanshou
-Bronze – Tan Nysan – Men’s singles
-Bronze – Hem Bunting – Men’s marathon
AFTER the closing ceremony of the 25th SEA Games in Vientiane on Friday, the Cambodian delegation began the two–day bus journey back home, again with police escort to the border. Some sports had finished early and already returned, so the numbers were lessened. Most of the athletes, coaches, managers and officials were in joyous mood, reflecting on the 40 medals won in Laos, the Kingdom’s best tally for decades and a significant improvement on the 18 collected at the previous SEA Games in 2007.
After spending a night in the southern Laotian town of Pakse, the delegation traveled to the border, where it was welcomed by a group of sport officials led by Lak Sam Ath, director general of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport’s general department of sports.
In the afternoon, when the buses reached the city limits, the three gold medalists, Chan Sokmean, Heng Than and Chov Sotheara were invited into a special car at the head of the motorcade. The athletes received a hero’s welcome from the crowd members, who waved and cheered as the procession snaked its way through the capital, on its way to the Olympic Stadium, where tearful relatives awaited.
At a ceremony at the stadium, Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhai Ly stated that the Kingdom should be happy with the medals tally in accordance with the number of sports competed. “It’s a great step for our sports,” he said. “We won twice as many as at the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand.”
According to Yim Chhai Ly, the sport sector is also one of the priorities for the government. “The more we win, the more we are recognised by other nations,” he noted. “I hope that all athletes and relative parties will better and better in the next events.”
No change in country ranking
With 3 gold, 10 silvers and 27 bronzes, Cambodia retained their ninth place ranking ahead of Brunei and East Timor, while Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia took top honours.
Cambodia achieved greater success at the third edition of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1965, where they won a total of 51 medals – 15 gold, 19 silver and 17 bronze. Later, again in the Malaysian capital in 1971, they grabbed 53 medals, with 17 gold, 18 silver and 18 bronze.
Cambodia can take heart in the fact that they sent athletes to compete in an increased number of sports. Although delegates for 19 sports were sent, only 18 were in action, as the two Cambodian cyclists, along with 12 Filipinos, were not allowed to compete due to a lack of official licenses.
Chov Sotheara was delighted to become the first female Cambodian wrestler to win gold. “The medal is not only belonging to me, but also my country,” she remarked. “I’m so happy that I can make a good account for Cambodian sport.”
Sok Chanmean, who won his second consecutive gold in men’s petanque singles, and Heng Than, gold medalist in men’s shooting, both noted the honour of bringing home the top award. “I really want to repeat [gold] at the next edition,” added Heng Than, who made his SEA Games debut in Laos.
Boxing silver medalist Phal Sophat said that gold is his main ambition. “I
really need gold for the Kingdom, but my Filipino opponent in the final was better than me,” he admitted. “He knocked me out in the second round. I’m so sad with the result, but so happy that I got at least silver. My fate will be better in the future.”
Ouk Sreymom, silver medalist in women’s petanque singles was disappointed to lose her final against her Vietnamese rival. “I used all my energy in the final to win gold, but my right hand was a problem,” she lamented. “I didn’t play well. However, I’m still one of the medalists for Cambodia.” The 34-year-old claimed her seventh SEA Games medal, having won gold in 2003.
“Now we are the real enemy of other countries in petanque,” declared head coach Em Heang. “We won 10 medals [2 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronzes] so we lost only one event.”
Chan Vesna, a 26-year-old student, appealed to the government to help find the best coaches for athletes. “I’m so happy that some disciplines with foreign coaches, such as taekwondo, wrestling, boxing and tennis won medals,” he said. “I think that if we have the best coaches, we will get better results from the next SEA Games.”
During an interview in Vientiane, Sorn Elit, who won silver in taekwondo’s men’s heavyweight (over-87kg) competition, said that all team members are getting along with coach Choi Yongsok of South Korea. “He guides us in the right way,” said Sorn Elit. “We have improved a lot.” Choi Yongsok said he expected better results at the next SEA Games (in Indonesia in 2011), after his team have gained more experience from international competitions.
Referees accused of bias
Some athletes and coaches, especially in artistic performance sports, opined that Cambodia would have achieved better results if the referees had given decisions their way.
Lach Vuthy, general secretary of Cambodian Judo Federation (CJF) was suspicious of decisions by the refereeing committee. “They didn’t show us the results,” he said. “I thought that my athletes did well in their competition, but according to the match officials, my players lost by points to their opponents.”
Thin Vichet, assistant coach of wrestling, also alleged bias among referees. “If my athletes didn’t do their best, they couldn’t get points from the referees,” he stated. “With wrong decisions, we lost our chance to get more gold medals. We complained about that already.” Many boxers complained of similar problems.
Shuttlecock coach Sann Theng also thought his players should have achieved better than their seven bronzes, pointing to numerous errors given to the Cambodian team when they had not done anything wrong. “My players lost concentration with wrong decisions by referees, and some of them wanted to stop playing during the matches,” he said.
Better performance but no medals
Hem Thong, general secretary of the Khmer Amateur Swimming Federation said that even though none of his swimmers won a medal, the performance of each had improved considerably. “Our swimmers broke their own records in the past,” he noted. “But even though we’ve developed, other swimmers are still better than us.”
Athletics coach Phai Sok also pointed to improvement across the board. “Hem Bunting won bronze in the marathon, but his time is better than his silver [winning time] in the 2007 SEA Games. So we are still in a long way to be the best.”
In judo, karatedo, and beach volleyball, there were no medals, but the results were not too bad. However, table tennis, badminton, sipak takraw and archery teams could only hope to gain experience from the SEA Games, as rival nations boasted overwhelming talent.
Sipak takraw player Ream Sophearom said: “We still lack international experience, but we are so happy that the athletes won medals in other sports. They’ve made a good account for all of us.”
Tennis federation general secretary Tep Rithivit, who celebrated Tan Nysan’s second consecutive bronze in men’s singles, highlighted the need for more tournament experience. “We still have chance to be the one of the best [in the region] if we have good training and join in many competitions,” he stated.