The final bell sounded on 11 consecutive days of kickboxing competition in Phnom Penh on Monday as the national team selection tournament wrapped up its annual event with a boisterous finale held at the Olympic Stadium.
Organized by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and presided over by National Olympic Committee President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the proceedings concluded before a crowd of more than 800 spectators.
“Today is the biggest day for kickboxers in Cambodia,” said Ei Phouthang, Cambodia’s renowned former champion who was on hand to serve as cornerman for his brother Outh Phouthang.
Monday’s events included eight A1 Group finals, an awards presentation and Prince Ranariddh’s personal acknowledgement of the boxers and of Luis Valdes, the Cuban coach who has trained Cambodia’s Western-style boxing team for the last two years.
The tournament, which began Sept 16 with 619 competitors arriving from across Cambodia, finished with 45 winners in 15 different weight classes-seven for kickboxing and eight for Western-style boxing.
According to officials from the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation, first-place finishers received $50 from Prince Ranariddh, $75 from the Ministry of Education and a free television set courtesy of TV5.
Second-place finishers earned $40 from Prince Ranariddh, $50 from the ministry and a DVD player. Third-place finishers won $30, $40 and an electric table fan.
“Kickboxing is the most famous sport of the Cambodian people,” said 53-year-old Kim Lavy, who is the head of the federation’s technical committee and has been involved with Cambodian kickboxing since 1968.
“It is very important for us to keep the tradition going.”
Seen ringside at many kickboxing events in the capital, Chea Sakhon, 34, claims she is the biggest kickboxing fan “in the world.”
“This is the best event because there is no charge, it is free for everyone,” she said of the team selection tournament.