Although Cambodia has just participated in the World Games for the first time, its petanque heroines Ouk Sreymom and Un Sreya were able to build big reputations in the sport from that single event at an international competition that has been going strong for 41 years now.
The duo of Cambodian women won two World Games 2022 gold medals in the women's single and double petanque competitions, held this year in the southern US city of Birmingham, Alabama.
Petanque is a bowling game of French origin played on hard dirt or gravel where the players direct their balls by rolling or throwing them at a target ball to try and place theirs closest to it or defend by knocking their opponents’ balls away.
Sreymom won a World Petanque Championship gold medal in the women's single category for the first time in Belgium in 2017 and then repeated that feat again in 2021. This was her debut at the World Games, playing on behalf of Cambodia.
The veteran Sreymom stunned and surprised the world when she won a gold medal in the exciting precision shooting event on July 13.
Competing against eight strong players from countries around the world, Sreymom managed a big comeback in the second round after early difficulties led to her winning just fourth place in the first round.
In the semi-finals, Sreymom defeated Denmark's Katrine Junge at shorelines 37-23 before beating Rebeka Howe of the US 41-21 in the finals to win the gold medal for the event.
In addition to her solo medal, Sreymom partnered with Un Sreya to compete in the doubles. They were assigned to the red group alongside France, Denmark and Canada while the white group teams were Thailand, Germany, Belgium and the US.
In the first round, Sreymom and Sreya defeated Denmark's duo 13-5, while France beat Canada 13-1. The second round saw the Cambodian team lose to France with a score of 9-7 and a rank of second. This meant that they had to play a qualifier match against the third-ranked team Denmark to win a semi-finals placement.
Sreymom and Sreya defeated the Danish team once again, this time with a score of 13-4, to advance and play against the Thai team, which had won first place in the White group with a victory over the American team 13-5 and over the German team 13-0, while the French team faced off against the German team.
In a tough semi-final match, the Cambodian pair defeated the Thai team 12-10 to advance to the finals and a rematch with France who had just beat Germany 13-3.
The finals were a true grudge match and the Sreymom-Sreya combo did well in both their shooting and pointing to beat the French team 7-5 for a gold medal win that handed the silver to their opponents, while the Thai team defeated the German team 13-0 in the bronze medal match.
The final results showed that the Cambodian petanque team came out on top and took gold in both the singles and the doubles categories, while the French and American teams each won silver medals and the Thai team won both bronze medals.
Cambodia and Thailand were the only two countries in ASEAN to be invited to participate in the World Games 2022 in the US this year.
Kin Samnang, deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Boules and Petanque of Cambodia, who accompanied the Cambodian petanque athletes to the competition, said the two gold medals won by the Cambodian athletes surprised and amazed other countries who didn't expect any medal wins for the Kingdom.
"We are very happy that we have won gold medals in both categories and many other countries have joined us in celebrating these wins at our debut World Games," she said.
Samnang told The Post that the World Games is a major multi-sports event recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that are held every four years after the Summer Olympics and the competition in 2022 had 34 sports with a total of more than 3,600 athletes competing for 223 medals.
"Winning gold medals in both disciplines came from the efforts of our players and this is a new record to bring back to Cambodia. We were just invited for the very first time, but were able to win both gold medals and I hope that these two medals will help push Cambodian petanque to the next level as well as promote the sport on the international stage,” Samnang said.