His life’s burning ambition has been to coach kids and at last Cambodia’s tennis legend Yi Sarun has that wish granted.
The 69-year-old inveterate veteran, and one of only three tennis players to survive the Khmer Rouge reign of terror during which 40 of his batch-mates were slain, has now joined the Tennis Cambodia coaching staff as a senior member assigned to help nearly 80 kids in the coastal town of Kep.
“In his passion for tennis he is still like a teenager, ever ready to get on to the court at a moment’s notice. He is such a natural teacher,” Tennis Cambodia secretary-general Tep Rithivit told the Post as Sarun efficiently got down to the business of coaching last weekend.
“Yi Sarun is a potent symbol of our great transition from those dark days to the glory days of the ’60s we are striving to re-create and his participation in this grassroots project is the best way moving forward.
“We know how the kids feel to be in the company of a man who has sacrificed and suffered so much for tennis and there is such a lot for them to learn from his fascinating life story and his vast experience and tennis skills. It is never too late to seek the services of a great achiever like Yi Sarun,” added the secretary.
Sarun will be working in Kep during the weekends with Sok Ngo, who has been coaching the kids since the program began nearly two years ago.
“My greatest ambition in life was to coach youngsters. Now I have a chance to do that thanks to Tennis Cambodia and its secretary-general Tep Rithivit,” Yi Sarun told the Post.
“I will be making up and down trips every week to Kep. It is physically demanding but that is something I can easily handle.”
The kids were obviously thrilled at the prospect of Yi Sarun helping them out with their tennis careers and during the first session they were completely charmed by the grand old man of Cambodian tennis.
He was at his peak during the early ’60s after the late Tep Khunnah, the then captain of the national team and regarded even today as the father of Cambodian tennis, gave Yi Sarun his first major break to be part of the Kingdom’s squad.
Yi Sarun’s weekly routines will involve an evening session on Saturdays followed by morning workouts on Sundays.