Cambodian gymnasts claim first ever medals, plan for gold in 2023

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Cambodian aerobic gymnast Mo Sreypov (on top) and Has Sokhor perform in the mixed pair event at the SEA Games in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on May 21. CAMSOC

Cambodia's gymnasts broke a historic record after winning medals in the sport for the first time ever at the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games). The Kingdom’s young athletes won three silver and one bronze at the 31st edition of the biennial multi-sports event, this year held in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

In the May 21 aerobic gymnastics competition, they demonstrated that their lifelong commitment to the sport had paid dividends for the nation, with Has Sokhor, Tran Bunthoeun and Mo Srey Pov together showcasing their skill in the Mixed Trio event and claiming a silver medal in style.

Choeun Chanborey also won a bronze medal in his individual event, while on May 22, Sokhor and Srey Pov won another silver for the nation in the Mixed Pair. The pair then joined forces with Choeun Chanborey, Tran Bunthoeun and Nget Tola to take another silver in the mixed team event.

Noy Phana, secretary-general of the Gymnastics Federation of Cambodia, praised the efforts of his athletes, who have shot from zero to heroes after waiting almost 20 years to claim the historic medals.

“Our gymnasts have been participating in the SEA Games since 2005, but in the early days, our campaigns were difficult, because our resources of gymnastics knowledge were still at very limited levels,” Phana told The Post.

“We are really grateful for the encouragement we have received from the leadership of the Kingdom, especially Prime Minister [Hun Sen], who put a special focus on encouraging our national athletes,” he added.

The premier has provided charter flights to and from the games for the national athletes and SEA Games delegation.

“We are really thankful to Minister of Tourism Thong Khon – president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) and head of the Cambodia Gymnastics Federation (CGF) – and CGF vice-president Sok Hong, who set out our strategy, made recommendations and gave us, as the technical staff, a specific plan.

“Winning these medals is a historic moment for Cambodian gymnastics. We have not medalled since joining the games, and believe me, it has been a goal of ours. We worked hard for this. During the Covid-19 crisis, we kept out athletes training, even while locked down. Our leadership has been working closely with them to provide encouragement,” he added.

“We set a specific plan – that this year we would find a medal for the nation. This is an important step towards our longer-term goal of winning at least one gold when we host next year’s games. Based on the results we have accomplished here in Hanoi, we expect to do very well as hosts,” said Phana.

When asked what he considered the most significant factor that had led to this year’s haul of medals, Phana said: “We are grateful for our international coach, Denis Solovev. I personally contacted him in Russia and invited him to train and collaborate with our Cambodian coaches and assistant coaches.

“He has facilitated and fixed a lot of things, helping us to find good results. Now, according to our strategic planning – and the medals we claimed at these games – we think we are on track to claim gold in 2023.”