Ouk Chanthan spent much of her youth at Old Stadium in Phnom Penh. But the future Olympic sprinter wasn’t running. She was selling goods.
“When I was younger, I used to sell rice and coffee there,” she said. “I wasn’t very healthy then, and my father encouraged me to run so I would feel better.”
Her father, Ouk Kieng, was already an active figure in the sports community, coaching the men’s national volleyball team in the 1960s. In recent years he has helped train the national women’s team and the military team, and in 1998 he began training Cambodia’s first beach volleyball team.
Ouk Chanthan began serious training as a runner in 1994. Her workouts consist of 30-, 60-, 100- and 200-meter sprints in addition to the distance running she does to build up endurance.
Selected by world track officials as a wild-card entry in the 1996 Olympics in the US city of Atlanta, she finished last in her 100-meter heat in a time of 14.82 seconds, far slower than her personal best of 13.50. She’ll run the 100 meters again in Sydney.
“I was just excited to see Olympic events,” she said of the 1996 Games. “I took them as a model for how I should train.”
Now 26 years old, she may decide to be a coach herself someday. She’s especially interested in working with girls.
“If they come to me, I will use all my knowledge to teach them,” she said.