Cambodia will send more than 200 athletes representing 22 different sports to compete in the 27th Southeast Asia Games to be held in Naypyidaw, Burma, next month, an official from National Olympic Committee (NOC) said Sunday.
Cambodia won four gold medals in the 2011 games in Indonesia, but NOC Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun said that since more and more Cambodian athletes now go abroad as part of their training, the country hopes to win gold medals in at least 10 sports in the tournament, which runs from December 11 to 22.
“We can achieve gold medals in approximately 10 sports,” he said, referring to wrestling, pentanque, traditional boat racing, bodybuilding, taekwondo and four less well-known disciplines—vovinam, a Vietnamese martial art; the Japanese mixed martial art known as kempo; and sepak takraw, which has been described as a blend of volleyball, football, martial arts and gymnastics.
The country is aspiring to place in the silver and bronze medal categories in athletics, cycling and wusu—a Chinese performance-based martial art.
“Our athletes’ capabilities are better than before, because they have received a lot of training and attention from the government in the last few years during which they went to be trained abroad for two or three months,” Mr. Chamroeun said.
He added that an increase in government funding and investment from the private sector will give added incentive to athletes pushing for medals, as the reward for winning gold will be $24,000, up from the $15,000 purse at the 2011 games in Indonesia. A silver medal will net $17,000 compared to $10,000 last time around, while the bronze medal winners will pocket $7,000, up from just $3,000.
“The financial encouragement is a very important strategy to enhance the morale of our athletes,” he said, noting that Prime Minister Hun Sen has also offered a gift of $300 to each athlete before they begin departing for Burma between December 3 and 9.
Mr. Hun Sen met with the delegation of athletes, which includes 69 women, at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh and offered some advice before their departure, according to state media website Agence Kampuchea Presse.
“All athletes represent our nation. We have to do our best to win with honor, but if we lose, we must also lose with honor,” Mr. Hun Sen was quoted as saying.
Cambodia won 39 medals in 2009 including four gold in nine different sports, and 28-year-old volleyball player Hang Pisey yesterday hoped that his team helps improve on that haul.
“In my mind, I have a 70 percent of hope that my team will win a medal. We have trained a lot and we have enough food to eat with good accommodation,” he said.