The Cambodian International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) has overcome recent heartbreak after its martial artists were unable take their place at the 32nd SEA Games on home soil.

The bitter pill was a tough one to swallow for ITF Cambodia’s members, who had, with dreams of at least 15 medals twinkling in their eyes, toiled tirelessly to prepare for the historic event.

The closing ceremony of the 2023 National Taekwon-Do ITF Championship, held at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, did little to lift spirits.

As Keo Remy, the chairman of the ITF, confessed: “Our absence from the SEA Games left us all disheartened. I was taken aback by our team’s resilience and dedication to continue their training.”

Remy openly thanked the federation leaders who stood by his side, rallying the players who had, in the wake of the disappointment, scattered in different directions.

“Our failure to compete in the SEA Games hit everyone hard, even the leadership, but we held our ground,” he said.

But in the face of adversity, Remy seemed to find a silver lining. This setback, he suggested, didn’t dampen the team’s spirit, but rather served as a baptism of fire, showcasing their determination.

“We’ve come to realise our strength through this challenge. Certain countries blocking our participation has set us back, but it has not beaten us,” he stated.

Remy rallied: “Having been athletes ourselves, we know this is not an insurmountable hurdle. We have learnt to keep our emotions in check and to move forward.”

Despite the SEA Games setback, Remy praised the ITF team’s unity and perseverance.

“I was almost moved to tears at the camaraderie displayed. I’m grateful to the ITF leadership for their continued cooperation and dedication in developing the sport,” he said.

Buon Hing Sothya, secretary-general of the Cambodia International Taekwondo Federation, reported that the national-level competition featured 70 sportsmen and 48 sportswomen, representing 16 associations and clubs nationwide.

The athletes vied for monetary prizes awarded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

The tournament, held from July 14-17, was won by the team from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, who bagged six gold medals, two silvers, and three bronzes.

Not far behind was the Ministry of Interior team with five golds, six silvers, and bronzes.

The Youth Ponleu Club from Kampong Speu, the Koh Kong Club, and the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) from Kampong Speu province also clinched multiple medals, demonstrating the broad depth of talent in Cambodia’s Taekwondo circuit.

The spectacular performances extended further with the Youth Ponleu club from Kampong Speu attaining four golds, three silvers, and four bronzes. Additionally, the club from Koh Kong province won three golds and three bronzes, presenting a fine display of their skills.

“This national-level competition seemed a new start after the SEA Games,” Remy said.

He added: “Despite our busy schedules, we all showed up to encourage our athletes and to unite for the future growth of ITF sports”.

Rounding off the medal tally, the club from the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) in Kampong Speu province proudly held two golds, two silvers, and three bronzes. Lastly, the Kdey Chas club added one gold, two silvers and two bronzes to their name.

The tournament revealed the depth of talent that Cambodia boasts in Taekwondo. Despite the setback of missing the SEA Games, the mood remained largely positive, providing a promising outlook for the future.

The teams’ shared resilience serves as a stark reminder that they might have been down, but they were far from out.

In the grand arena of sports, victory is sweet, but the spirit of the game lies in perseverance and unity. The ITF teams have surely displayed this spirit, standing strong in the face of adversity.

With every fall, they rise stronger, looking ahead with unflinching determination and unwavering hope.

The closing chapter of this saga saw the teams not wallowing in disappointment but celebrating their efforts and victories. As Remy put it, “We remain strong.”

The phrase echoed across the tournament ground, reaching the ears of every athlete. It will undoubtedly continue to resonate, heralding the beginning of a new journey for Cambodia’s Taekwondo athletes.

Their dreams of gold might have been momentarily eclipsed, but the sparkle in their eyes suggests those dreams are far from extinguished.