Women basketballers target gold at Para Games

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The Cambodian women’s wheel chair basketball team at a training session in Indonesia on July 27. Photo supplied

The Cambodian women’s wheel chair basketball team sees a real chance of coming home with a gold medal, while the men’s have raised concerns at the strength of their rivals. Both teams will be in action in the coming days, with the 11th 2022 ASEAN Para Games in Surakarta, Indonesia, due to get underway on July 30.

Although making their first-ever Para games appearance, the women’s team see their Thai opponents as the only obstacle between them and a gold medal debut.

Mao Sokchea, coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, told the National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia (NPCC) on July 28 that, based on past friendly match experiences, he expected the women to be successful.

“The only opponents we are concerned about at all are the Thais. If we can defeat them, then I am confident we will claim gold for the Kingdom,” he said.

The women will compete against Thailand, Laos and the Philippines in the 3 on 3 and 5 on 5 disciplines.

A round robin format will be used in each style of basketball. In round one, Cambodia will meet Laos. Their next two games will be against Thailand and the Philippines. Once these matches are completed, the top two sides will play for gold and silver medals. The third and forth will meet to decide who claims bronze.

Less confident are the men’s side, as their opponents at the games – hosts Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines – are all considered very strong teams.

At the last Para games, Thailand took gold in both the 3 on 3 and 5 on 5 disciplines, with Malaysia claiming a pair of silvers and the Philippines rolling home with two bronze. Malaysia has not entered a team this time around, but Indonesia has been preparing hard for the games, and has the home advantage.

After arriving at the games’ facilities and observing the other teams training, coach Sokchea said the speed of body rotation of the other men’s sides and their pace on the court looked faster than anything he had seen in Cambodia.

“It looks like they have upped their game. Nonetheless, we will try our best to get some good results. We are playing some strong teams, but we are as ready, physically and mentally as we can be,” he said.

Cambodia has sent a total of 166 delegates to the games. This includes 115 athletes in 11 sports: athletics; swimming; men’s and women’s seated volleyball; men’s and women’s wheel chair basketball; blind basketball; seven-a-side football; table tennis; badminton; weightlifting; chess; and boccia.

NPCC secretary-general Yi Veasna expressed his confidence in the volleyball and basketball teams, saying he hoped they would help the team beat its 2017 medal record of five silver and five bronze.