Sok Sopheak’s fourth-place finish at the 2009 Asian Bodybuilding and Fitness Championship in Pattaya, Thailand, last week was a first for Cambodia.
Mr Sopheak, 29, whose day job is a night security guard, posed and flexed his way through three rounds to earn his fourth place in the 165 cm division, making him the first Cambodian to place in an international body building competition.
“I am very proud to be a Cambodian bodybuilder and bring an award back,” Mr Sopheak said yesterday at his training center in Phnom Penh.
“I wanted to show people that Cambodia has big muscle men too. Before I liked to be handsome and have muscles, but now I want to win [competitions],” he said.
To achieve success at the international competition level, Mr Sopheak said he trains for an hour and a half twice a day, five to six days a week. But a lack of funds is limiting his progress, he said.
With no sponsorship and only his night-job salary, Mr Sopheak said he could not afford the expensive protein supplements or the high-quality food he needs to enhance his weightlifting work at the gym.
“It is very difficult, I work out too hard and eat six times a day,” he said of his training regime, adding that previous experiences in national competitions and the Thai-Cambodian Friendship Bodybuilding Competition in 2008 prepared him for Thailand, where athletes from 32 countries competed.
Mr Sopheak’s coach of five years, Khoue Sao, said his student is hard working, dedicated and has improved his stage presence and poses through a combination of practice and competition participation.
“I am very proud. He’s getting better, he won fourth place. Before he was not good,” Mr Sao said.
Over the seven years he has owned Rama Fitness Center, Mr Sao said he has seen an increase of people who come to the gym to bulk up, and Mr Sopheak’s victory will encourage that trend.
Fellow gym enthusiast Chinh Piseth said yesterday that Mr Sopheak’s win had showed the world that “Cambodia can produce a big man as well.”