Chhun Bunthong made history when he became the first Cambodian to claim an athletics gold medal at the 32nd SEA Games on May 11. The taste of victory was made even sweeter by winning it on home soil, as the Kingdom hosted the regional biennial multi-sports extravaganza for the first time in history.

In the 800m finals at the Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh, Bunthong raced home in 1 minute and 52.910 seconds to take the top spot on the podium. Vietnamese runner Duc Phuoc Luong won silver with a time of 1: 53.340, with bronze going to Malaysia’s Wan Muhammad Fazri Wan Zahari in 1: 53.860.

The cheers of his supporters rang through the stadium as he crossed the line. The Kingdom’s previous best efforts in athletics were in 2007, when runner Hem Bunting claimed silver in the marathon and bronze in the 5,000m in Thailand. He also collected a marathon bronze at the 2009 games, held in Laos.

Bunthong was moved to tears.

“I was crying with joy, but also because my parents could not be here to share this moment with me. They have passed away and I miss them very much. If they knew I won this gold, they would have been very happy,” he said.

He added that the win was the result of seven months of hard training in China.

“The Chinese paid close attention to my training. We worked well together, and were able to lift my abilities to the point where I could take this historic victory. This is the Kingdom’s best result, following the legendary runner Bunting’s historic silver in Thailand,” he said.