After ending Cambodia’s 44-year medal drought at the Asian Games with the Kingdom’s first ever gold in Incheon two years ago, taekwondo sensation Sorn Seavmey has set another record by becoming the first athlete to achieve Olympic qualification.
At the Mariott Convention Center Grand Ballroom in Pasay, Philliipines, 21-year-old Seavmey outclassed local favourite Elaine Aloes 5-0 in the women’s over 67kg category final to seal her place in the upcoming Rio Olympics.
In the drama-filled semi-finals, Seavmey outkicked Mokru Khalimova of Tajikistan 2-1 even as Aloes scored a 10-2 upset win over top-ranked Akram Kodabandeh of Iran, a silver medallist at the 2014 Asian Games.
With both the finalists assured of Olympic spots, Seavmey was clearly looking to end the competition on a high, and she easily accomplished her goal by dominating the 26-year-old Aloes all the way.
As the news of Seavmey’s spectacular landmark victory spread like wildfire in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen was among the first to take to social media to hail her direct Olympic qualification, something no other athlete in the history of Cambodian sports has ever achieved.
The Prime Minister said he would encourage and support the Taekwondo star in her international efforts.
Coach Choi Yung Suk believes Seavmey is endowed with a tough mentality that makes her fearless of reputations, and this was clear to see in the Philippines.
Choi Yung Suk had taken Seavmey and Chheang Puthearim for a rigorous training camp for nearly a month in South Korea before the competition.
Having served as a national coach since 1994, the South Korean Choi Yung Suk, who regards Cambodia as his adopted home, has been part of the success story involving both Seavmey and her elder sister Sorn Davin, a 2013 Myanmar silver medallist and a bronze winner in the Asian Championships.
Seavmey skipped the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore to concentrate on winning a ticket to Rio despite the well known fact that were she to fail the NOCC would have sought a wild card under the universality placement.
Seavmey faced the difficult decision whether or not to adopt a strict diet and training regimen that may have impacted the physical and mental strength needed to fight at her best to shed 5 kilograms in three months to make a lower weight for Singapore.
To go or not was the stark choice she was asked to make by both coach Choi Yung Sok and NOCC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun.
By the end of February last year Seavmey had made that choice, although it did deal a blow to the country’s SEA Games medal prospects.
But as was clear at the Philippine qualifier, Seavmey’s decision to give Singapore a miss and focus on Rio has been vindicated.