Wrestling targets more gold at Phnom Penh Games

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Wrestling Federation of Cambodia vice-president Casey Barnett (left) poses for a photo with bronze medalist Chea Kanha at the SEA Games in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. SUPPLIED

Cambodia's wrestling team – who just set a new record by claiming gold at the 31st SEA Games in Vietnam – have reset their medal targets for next year’s events. They have begun laying out strategic plans to make certain that the Kingdom’s wrestlers will have strong enough technical skills and abilities to bag more gold medals at the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia.

Casey Barnett – vice-president of the Wrestling Federation of Cambodia who led the wrestling team delegates at the Hanoi games – praised the team for the hard work which saw them win one gold, one silver and four bronze medals during the biennial sports event, which wrapped up on May 23.

However, the former US wrestling practitioner said that many potential Cambodian flyweight wrestlers did not get a chance to compete in Hanoi, so he would be looking into ways to recruit more athletes – in both forms of the sport – Greco-Roman and freestyle – ahead of the historic Phnom Penh games.

Barnett – also a professor of accounting and principal of CamEd Institute – told The Post on May 24: “At the Vietnam games, the wrestling team won the fourth most medals of any Cambodian team, behind Vovinam, petanque and kickboxing. I was very pleased with how hard each of our athletes tried. Despite many hardships, they bought home six medals for the Kingdom.”

During the recent games, the Cambodian wrestling team ranked second on wrestling’s medal table, surpassed only by hosts Vietnam. The Kingdom won one gold medal through Cambodian-Iranian wrestler Sou Bali in the 125kg class and one silver through another Cambodian-Iranian, Mo Sari, in the 97kg event. The wrestling team also bagged another four bronze medals, thanks to Dith Samnang, Chea Kanha, Soeun Sopheas and Heng Vuthy. The other nine athletes returned empty-handed.

“I believe we have a chance to take more medals next year. We will need to enter more weight categories, however. We have a lot of competitors who can compete in the flyweights, but we do not have many heavyweights,” he said.

“We will enter our strongest wrestlers in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle categories. At the recent games, the event committee divided practitioners of the two styles, meaning that if you chose to compete in the freestyle, you could not wrestle in the Greco-Roman.

“I believe that some freestyle medalists are capable of competing in both categories, so at the Phnom Penh games, we may see an even higher medal tally than we saw this year,” Barnett added.