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Gymnasts bending over backwards for first gold

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A gymnastics team trains ahead of the 7th Aerobic Gymnastics Asian Championships 2022 in Thailand. SUPPLIED

Gymnasts bending over backwards for first gold

The leaders of the Cambodia Gymnastics Federation (CGF) and their athletes are working together to realise their dream of claiming their first gold at the Aerobic Gymnastics Asian Championships.

This year’s champs, the 7th, will be held in Thailand from September 1-6. The federation will send a party of 18 delegates, including eight female and five male athletes. Two international judges and sundry coaching staff make up the remainder of the party.

CGF secretary-general Noy Phanna told The Post on August 24 that their ambition is to return to Cambodia with nothing less than gold.

This is the fourth time the team has joined the competition. In 2009, they collected a bronze in Thailand, improving their haul to include both silver and bronze the following year in Vietnam. In their most recent entrance, in 2015, the team was only able to secure a single bronze, again, in Vietnam.

Only 2015 bronze medalist Choeun Chanborey has any memory of the previous attempts, with the remaining 12 athletes about to enter for the first time.

The 12 newcomers – Nget Tola, Has Sokhor, Tran Bunthoeun, Srean Vuochtry, Siv Chantha, Mo Sreypov, Dim On Thida, Nem Sokheng, Sous Sreypov, Chhuon Sovanpanha, Chhuon Sreyneath and Chreung Chantra – have all been showing excellent progress under their talented national coaches.

Phanna, who is also the national team coach, said: “Under the guidance of Minister of Tourism and CGF president Thong Khon, we are meeting the goals that we set for our performance development programme. We are confident that we have what it takes to win medals.”

The team will compete in a total of nine separate events. In the over 18 class, the team will enter the individual men, mixed pair, trio and group categories. In the under 19 class, individual woman, mixed pair and trio will be the contested events. Finally, in the youth from 15 to 17 years old class, Cambodia will attempt the individual woman and mixed pair events.

“Regardless of age, all of our athletes in all of the categories will be striving for a medal. Their main goal will be to make sure that medal is gold,” said Phanna.

Phanna’s confidence in his team comes from their outstanding results at the recent 31st SEA Games.

Recalling the silver medals won in the trios by Has Sokhor, Tran Bunthoeun and Mo Sreypov, in the mixed pairs by Has Sokhor and Mo Sreypov, and the group event by Has Sokhor, Mo Sreypov, Choeun Chanborey, Bunthoeun and Nget Tola – as well as the individual men’s bronze claims by Choeun Chanborey – Phanna said the excellent results were down to sacrifices made by the athletes and coaches.

“To be honest, in the past three years we have given up almost everything for the team. CGF president Thong Khon has also provided financial assistance and incentives. He often visited the team while we were training in isolation during lockdown. I myself have stayed close to the athletes as well,” he said.

“For more than two years during the pandemic lockdowns, I was rarely at home. I was training and even eating with the team. The assistant coaches and the athletes were barely apart, and it was this dedication and sacrifice that earned us our proud games’ record,” he added.

At the Asian Championships in Thailand, Phanna claimed that of the 14 countries that will participate, seven will provide strong competition to Cambodia.

“We consider China, Iran, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines as serious obstacles for us. That being said, according to our analysis of their training, we are all fairly evenly matched. I am confident that our athletes will return home with a record medal haul,” he said.

Phanna, who has been secretary-general since 2007, considered this championship to be the best indicator of his team’s levels ahead of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) next year. As hosts, the Cambodian SEA Games organising committee (CAMSOC) has set the target for the gymnastics team to win at least one gold medal.

“Although we will be competing in other events to make our team stronger in terms of ability and spirit, this Asian Championships will be this year’s biggest test of our ability,” he said.

“As long as we medal in the championships, it means that our preparations for the SEA Games in 2023 are in line with CAMSOC’s target,” he added.

Mo Sreypov, who won three silver medals at the 31st SEA Games in Vietnam, said: “I am very confident that we have trained hard to correct our shortcomings and that we will achieve the goal set by the federation at the champs in Thailand Asian Championships in Thailand.”

“With my efforts in training and the excellent coaching staff, I sincerely believe we will achieve better results that we previously managed,” she added.

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