‘People with disabilities are often discriminated against, sometime even by others with the same disability. I don’t dwell on this – Instead, I want to use the rest of my life to help the nation,” said one of Cambodia’s leading wheelchair basketball players.
Se Sara, now 39, had a terrible accident when he was young. While working as a construction worker, he was hit by a cement truck. Following the accident, which required the amputation of his legs, he became despondent and was no longer even sure if life was worth living. He began starving himself, refusing to eat at all.
One day, he heard a radio host discussing the purpose of human lives, and discovered a new perspective. The host asked the question “why live if only to be a burden on others?” and he realised he was dragging other people down with him.
He began a new life as a Khmer literacy teacher, giving lessons to the children in his neighbourhood. He finally understood that despite his disability, he could make a contribution to society.
It 2019, he caught a glimpse of his future when he first witnessed the sport of wheelchair basketball. He was instantly obsessed, and told himself that he would one day join the national team.
With passion and hard work, he quickly developed the skills he needed. In 2022, he found himself representing the Kingdom at the 2022 ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia, building national pride through victories over teams from other countries.
With no lower limbs at all, the sport is especially challenging for Sara, but his nationalist spirit drives him on.
His team were disappointed with their results at the most recent Paralympics – although the women’s team did claim gold – but they were training hard ahead of next year’s historic Cambodia-hosted Para Games.
“This was the first time Cambodia participated in the basketball event at the Para Games, so we don’t have the experience of some of the region’s other sides. That being said, I believe that if we work harder, we will take our skills to the next level,” he said.
However, he added that the hard work of his team also requires support from the public, noting that he had not seen much encouragement in the past.
“I am a person with a disability, but I always try my very best to represent Cambodia on the international stage. Why would people fail to offer their support, or even discriminate against me?” he asked.
The question was an expression of his dissatisfaction with discrimination he had experienced in the past. On behalf of other people with disabilities, he asked for understanding and support for next year’s tournament in Cambodia.
The Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) on September 30 launched a campaign called #BeyondTheGames to mobilise the public’s participation in the Kingdom’s journey to hosting the 32nd SEA Games and the 12th ASEAN Para Games in Phnom Penh next year.
Sok Sabayna, a permanent member representing UYFC president Hun Many and also chairman of the Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee’s Volunteer Commission, said at the launch of the campaign: “This is a rare, golden opportunity to showcase the peace and prosperity of Cambodia. We will give our guests a sense of the superiority and potential of modern Cambodia.”
Sabayna highlighted many outstanding individuals who had made sacrifices to contribute to society. He also encouraged athletes to build on their achievements for Cambodia, in the spirit of “one nation” for 2023.