A passionate windsurfer growing up in China, Gordon Tang’s love of water adventure and martial arts has seen him turn into one of the biggest benefactors of Cambodian sports.
After becoming a Cambodian citizen some years ago, Tang’s benevolence and burning desire to build a healthy sporting culture in the Kingdom has seen him invest time, energy and significant resources over the past few years to promote such diverse interests as sailing, gymnastics, judo and taekwondo.
He is a vice president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and heads the Cambodian Sailing Federation (CSF). As well as sponsoring the creation of the CSF two years ago, he has opened his wallet to cover the training expenses in China of a gymnast and two sailors who took part in August’s SEA Games, besides funding similar ventures in other sports.
Tang has also been a leading donor in supporting several sports programmes. He was one of the few individuals to reward Cambodia’s medal winners at the recently concluded Kuala Lumpur SEA Games with cash prizes.
In an interview with The Post’s HS Manjunath, Tang spoke of his vision of the future for the sport closest to his heart – sailing – and his resolve to keep supporting other disciplines he is deeply passionate about.
What is it that is driving your passion to support Cambodian sports in the way you have been?
I was a windsurfer when I was young and later fell in love with sailing, taekwondo, judo and other sports. Having experienced the joy of sport, I realised the value of perseverance.
At the end of 2014, I was greatly inspired by the ‘Olympic Agenda 2020’ brought up by international Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. The purpose of the Olympic Games is to promote the spirit of sports.
Therefore, I proposed to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia [NOCC] to set up the Cambodia Sailing Federation and I sponsored it.
In August 2015 the CSF was set up. I have been strongly supported by the NOCC. The CSF was established in a very short period, which reflected the determination and strength of the NOCC leaders for sports promotion. This has amplified my confidence.
As a sailor yourself, what is your vision for sailing in Cambodia, and for the other disciplines like gymnastics that you have been investing in so much over the past few years?
Cambodia has one of the greatest windsurfing areas in the world, with its great beaches, suitable weather and strong seasonal winds that are vital factors for the development of windsurfing and sailing.
The goal of the CSF is to provide young people with learning and training places, enabling more people to understand and participate in windsurfing and sailing, and to make a positive impact on their lives.
Gymnastics is very popular in Cambodia and their athletes have great potential. Helping these athletes to receive more professional and systematic training in sports schools in China can significantly improve their skills as well as motivation. That is why I am supporting gymnastics.
You are a vice president of the NOCC. How will you use this influential position to keep building the future of Cambodian sport?
As a vice president, I am grateful to the NOCC leadership for their trust and support. With that backing, I will continue to help them to promote sports development, such as investing in training equipment, hiring coaches, sponsoring athletes and rewarding medal winners, et cetera.
By doing this, I hope it will encourage more young people to participate in sport and live a healthier life, and at the same time, lay a solid ground for Cambodian sports expansion.
What are the major programmes you have in mind for sailing?
It is indeed a great pleasure to see Cambodia join World Sailing and the Asian Sailing Federation. We made our debut in the SEA Games and got a good result at a regatta in Johor. We continue to train for next year’s Asian Games and hopefully will send a Cambodian sailor to the Youth Olympics.
How do you see the growth of Cambodian sports in the future?
I am optimistic that a bright future is ahead for Cambodian sports. I will continue to make good use of my resources to enhance sports popularisation in Cambodia. I believe in the spirit of persistence and pragmatism, and I am confident Cambodia will make great strides in the next few years.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.