Wrestlers Win First Gold Medals at SEA Games

Cambodian athletes have won two gold, four silver and seven bronze medals so far at the 27th Southeast Asia Games in Naypyidaw, which began on December 5 and will continue until December 22, with an official opening ceremony to be held Wednesday.

Thirteen medals put Cambodia in seventh place among 11 competing nations, far behind host Burma with 18 gold medals and 34 in total so far. Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines also sit above Cambodia in the table, while Singapore, Laos, Brunei and Timor-Leste have won fewer medals.

Winning their country’s first gold medals on Tuesday evening were Ni Samnang in the women’s 63-kg freestyle wrestling category, and Kao Chheng Thong in the men’s 84-kg Greco-Roman wrestling.

Cambodia’s wrestlers were on a roll, as earlier in the day, Dorn Sov grabbed a silver medal in the men’s 120-kg Greco-Roman wrestling category, while in the women’s 67-kg freestyle, Chea Srey Meas also took silver.

The wrestling contingent was favored this year and Tuesday’s haul marked an improvement on the two silver medals won in the 2011 games in Indonesia. However the men’s basketball team did not fare so well after crashing out Tuesday 107-57 to tournament favorite the Philippines.

Team Cambodia, which is represented by 209 athletes competing in 22 different sports, is still hoping to add to its gold medal tally in the sports of pentanque, traditional boat racing, bodybuilding and tae kwon do, as well as the more obscure disciplines of vovinam, a Vietnamese martial art, and sepak takraw—a blend of volleyball, football, martial arts and gymnastics, in which the Cambodian women’s team has already picked up a bronze.

Speaking Tuesday at a celebration to mark National and International Day of People with Disabilities at Koh Pich in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen congratulated athletes on the medals won so far and said they should be more motivated following a recent government sub-decree that increased the prize money for winning a medal.

“Now, I have heard we have already got some silver and bronzes,” he said.

“But before, the reward for a gold medal at the Southeast Asia Games was only 26 million riel [about $6,500]—now it has risen to 40 million riel [about $10,000],” he said, adding that the reward will be the same for disabled athletes competing in Paralympic events.

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