The Kingdom’s chances of claiming gold at the upcoming 19th Asian Games 2022 – underway until October 8 in Hangzhou, China – have taken a blow, with the withdrawal of one of Cambodia’s previous gold medallists and several other high profile athletes unable to compete.
Cambodia-American ju-jitsu superstar Jessa Khan and jet ski racing ace Sali Umet will not be participating in this year’s games, with Cambodian-American SEA Games taekwondo gold winner Cassandre Nicole Tubbs also announcing her absence.
At the previous Asian Games, held in 2018 in Indonesia, Umet claimed a gold medal and a bronze for the Kingdom, while Jessa also brought home gold. The pair of golds were the first to be claimed by the Kingdom at this level since 2014, when Sorn Seavmey made history with a golden performance on the taekwando mat in South Korea.
Hosts China have not including jet skiing at the 19th Asian Games, denying Umet the chance to add to his tally.
Jessa has opted to withdraw from the games due to a scheduling clash. She is due to fight in the ONE Championship atomweight submission grappling World Championship in Singapore on September 29.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) addressed her decision.
“We regret that Khan Jessa will not be entering the Asian Games, both for health reasons, and because the mixed martial arts (MMA) competition in Singapore is approaching,” he said.
“We have communicated with the athletes who have opted not to participate. Their decisions will not affect our preparations,” he added.
He explained that the Kingdom’s sporting federations were working with the hosts, but ultimately saw the decision not to take part as perfectly natural for anyone who may have a problem.
He recalled that during the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo, upon arriving there, a well-known American gymnast decided not to enter the tournament because she was not in the right mental space to compete, noting that it was her decision.
Although, Jessa and Umet have withdrawn from the games, Cambodia hoped that some other medal contenders would emerge and win glory for the Kingdom.
“We wanted to maintain the benchmarks we set at previous Asian games, and we want to build on the technical levels and quality of our athletes that were set at the SEA Games,” said Chamroeun.
“We are pushing ourselves to maintain the Asia Games level, but we are competing with large countries like Japan, China, South Korea, Iran and Kazakhstan. They all have high technical levels and many proud achievements, so we accept it will be hard for our athletes to produce winning results,” he added.
However, he said the determination and self-belief of the Kingdom’s athletes had not faded, and noted that he was impressed by the progress they have made during their Chinese training camps. He still had high hopes for a medal winning performance at the games.
“We still have many other incredible sportsmen and women taking part in the games. We still have hopes for sprinter Chhun Bunthong and several wrestlers, taekwondo and ju-jitsu competitors. We cannot predict how many medals we will return with. When the games are over, we will know,” he explained.