Dressed all in white, Princess Norodom Amrita, alongside teammates Kong Ratanak and KiriChantola, guided her powerful steed over the jumps at the Cambodian Country Club (CCC).

Despite the absence of spectators, the Cambodian show jumping team showcased the close bond between human and animal, during the demonstration event in Phnom Penh on December 19.

The display aimed to showcase the trio’s skills, which saw them secure gold in the show jumping competition at the 1st SEA Youth Cup 2023, held in the Thai capital Bangkok on December 9.

The golden accomplishment marked the culmination of an intense training period for the Cambodian equestrian team, which has been champing at the bit to strut their stuff in the international arena.

Regrettably, equestrian events were not included in the previous three editions of the SEA Games, including the May 32nd SEA Games, which was hosted by Cambodia.

“We have all undergone rigorous training, so it was truly exhilarating to secure the first gold medal for the Kingdom,” said Amrita, following her display of equestrian prowess. 

The 15-year-old rider proudly showed off the gold medal won by the team at the Bangkok competition, while expressing her gratitude to the Cambodian Equestrian Federation (CEF) and the coaching staff at the CCC.

Amrita, who began training at the age of 11, announced her intention to continue her sporting career, with the goal of seeking additional triumphs for the nation. 

“Securing a gold medal in Bangkok has bolstered our confidence, and we believe we can go on to win more competitions. We are particularly looking forward to the 2025 SEA Games in Thailand,” she said.

“I believe we will achieve success, and return with more medals,” she added.

Her teammates Ratanak and Chantola shared her immense joy at the team’s earlier December win.

They explained that the victory went some way to alleviating the team’s disappointment at missing out at the chance to compete on home soil, at the 32nd SEA Games.

“Despite the absence of show jumping from the SEA Games, especially the 2023 edition, we have been training consistently, even in the hottest weather. Our aim is to seize the chance to take gold as soon as we get the opportunity,” said Ratanak.

“Our first victory has provided us with the motivation to intensify our training ahead of the 2025 SEA Games. We are fuelled by a genuine desire to contribute to the Kingdom’s image on the international stage,” he added.

The gold medal performance was another step forward in the enduring struggle of the Cambodian Equestrian Federation (CEF). 

Established in 2006, the federation’s riders claimed their first medals in 2017, when they claimed show jumping bronze at the Malaysian SEA Games.

CEF president Tep Mona explained that the team first participated in the SEA Games in Myanmar in 2013. Following their debut, they appeared at the 2015 games in Singapore and the 2017 Myanmar edition, where they claimed their first podium finish.

However, equestrian events were not featured in the 2019 games in the Philippines, the 2022 games in Vietnam or the 2023 games in Cambodia.

“The formation of the federation involved numerous difficulties and obstacles that are challenging to articulate. Our sport requires individual preparation, as well as the training of both athletes and horses. Both must share a harmonious connection, in order to navigate the jumps – and this is a formidable task,” Mona told The Post.

“Because of the hardships, sometimes I contemplate letting go. However, when we witness our flag being hoisted in honour of our athletes, and when we hear the sound of our national anthem resounding on the international stage, it is truly exhilarating,” she added.

With a focus on enhancing their training regime and resources, the CEF has set its sights on victory at the 2025 games.

Equestrian sports have been officially inaugurated for the event, and the establishment of the SEA Youth Cup aims to encourage and inspire more ASEAN countries to fortify their equestrian federations ahead of the games.

“We are developing a substantial number of athletes. With support from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia [NOCC] and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport – which have both provided foreign and local coaches for our team – we must persist in strengthening our efforts. By the time the 2025 SEA Games are upon us, we anticipate winning the top prize. We are extremely motivated to continue to accelerate our development,” said Mona.

Hoy Sopharith, coach of the national equestrian team, revealed that the federation currently boasts 14 national level athletes – three of them women – who possess the competence to compete at the SEA Games level. However, he explained that the federation aspires to train them to be competitive at the Asian Games level or even higher.

“Our athletes are currently capable of competing for 2025 SEA Games medals, with jumps ranging from 1.20m to 1.25m,” explained the 42-year-old coach.

“We want to target the Asian level, where horses and athletes are jumping 1.35m to 1.40m, and ultimately the world level, where they can achieve a height of 1.60m. Our goal is to propel our athletes and horses to reach the highest international standards,” he said.