Long jump athlete Vet Chantha tearfully shared her difficult path to triumph on the international stage, explaining that her gold medal achievement at the 12th ASEAN Para Games was a victory forged through her arduous experiences.
As a disabled woman born to a destitute family, her journey to success is all the more impressive.
Chantha considers her mother, who has been a widow since the age of 38, to be a true heroine and the most important person in her life.
“I owe my heartfelt thanks to my mother. Regardless of me being hailed as a sporting hero by the public, she is my personal heroine. She persevered in raising me, acting as both a father and a mother, sacrificing so much to bring me into this world,” she said, after claiming her first gold earlier this week.
“I am profoundly grateful to her. If I had been born into a privileged family, I would never have understood the challenges of life as I do today," she explained.
“My family’s impoverished background compelled us to overcome obstacles and nurtured my resolute will and determination to persevere throughout my life. I didn't receive assistance from anyone, as my siblings were still young, and my mother, a widow,” she continued.
Her sporting career led to her meeting Bong Hong, a fellow athlete who claimed gold at the 2015 ASEAN Para Games. They have since married and begun a family, and are enjoying their lives together.
Hong's recent performances have placed him firmly in the shadow of his talented wife. During this year’s games, Hong secured a bronze medal in the T47, an event classification for track competitors with a below elbow or wrist amputation or impairment, on June 6, while Chantha claimed three gold medals in the women's 400m and 200m races, and the women’s Long Jump T64, surpassing the record that was set at the 11th ASEAN Para Games in 2022 in Indonesia.
Chantha thanked the leadership of the National Paralympics Committee of Cambodia, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen as chairman, vice-president Hun Many and secretary-general Yi Veasna, for their unwavering support. She regarded Hun Many as a saviour and another of the heroes who had transformed the lives of her and her family.
“I extend my gratitude to the prime minister, Veasna, and the leadership of the committee, for giving me the opportunity to prove myself and earn a respected place in society. I am particularly grateful to the vice-president Hun Many, as upon witnessing my plight, he spent hundreds of dollars to provide me with high-performance prosthetic limbs, enabling my competitiveness in the games,” she said.
“Without his gift, I would not be where I am today. He motivated me and equipped me with the tools I needed to reach for success and win gold medals for the Kingdom,” she added.
She also recalled the kind words of encouragement Hun Sen shared with her as he passed her the games torch during the June 3 opening ceremony of the games, held at the Morodok Techo National stadium, noting that she regarded the encounter as a divine blessing which propelled her to her gold-medal winning performances.
“When Prime Minister Hun Sen handed me the relay torch, he urged me to try my best! I perceived this as a blessing. The following day when I competed in the long jump event, I told myself I was blessed, and thus was able to secure the gold for the nation,” she concluded.