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Swimmers hint at improvement but hesitant to set medal goals

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Cambodian national swim team members dive into the pool during the delayed National Swimming Competition, held at Battambang Swimming Centre earlier this year. SUPPLIED

Swimmers hint at improvement but hesitant to set medal goals

Khmer Swimming Federation secretary-general Hem Thonkiri confirmed that the national swimming athletes have increased their time in the pool in order to strengthen their technical skills and chase improvements. However, the team remains hesitant to set medal targets ahead of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), to be held in Vietnam in May.

Thonkiri told The Post on April 17 that the Khmer athletes’ preparations for the upcoming event are progressing nicely now that training has resumed following the restrictions imposed by the first outbreak of Covid-19. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport allowed the team to train at the closed Morodok Techo National Stadium and the Olympic Stadium during the latest Covid restrictions.

“Now we are training regularly at Olympic Stadium and improving every day, we have high expectations for the games in Vietnam. This time around, we expect Cambodia’s results to be very much improved when compared to our previous efforts,” he said.

However, the former national swimming athlete added: “We would not speculate on specific categories yet; our outcomes are still limited, and we cannot 100 per cent guarantee any particular medal chances.”

“We are not 100 per cent certain of a podium finish in any one race, but we can expect to be more competitive than we were in the past. In the sport of swimming, if you train and compete locally, you often struggle to reach your prime or find the last few advantages needed to win. When you join big international events, you often find you are achieving more,” he said.

“I would like to emphasize the strength of our athletes’ efforts during the Covid lockdowns. They trained really hard, and our coaches and management team pushed them very hard. We adjusted their training loads from two hours per session to three or even three-and-a-half hours.

“So, each day, every member of the national squad is training for a minimum of six hours. Their training distances have also increased, from 6,000m to 8,000m. This is a much more demanding training routine, and we have seen many positive changes in our swimmers, both in strength and technical ability,” he added.

Cambodia will send six men and four women – along with two coaches – from its swim team to the May games. The 10 athletes will compete in 12 men’s single events, 10 single women’s events, and three team events.

In addition, the Khmer Swimming Federation chaired by senior minister Sun Chanthol – who is also Minister of Public Works and Transport – will also send four men, two women and a coach to compete in the Finswimming. There will be four categories of men’s singles, three of women’s, and one team event.

Speaking about the new sport, Thonkiri said: “Finswimming made its first appearance at the SEA Games in Vietnam in2003, and again in Laos in 2009, but has not been included regularly. This time around its an interesting opportunity for us, because it’s a new technique.

“Being involved in the sport is part of our strategy to find medals, because according to the President of the Federation – as well as our sports leaders – every sport should be working on pathways to medal at the 2023 games, when we host for the first time. So, as we approach the Vietnam games, we will be focused on how Finswimming will fit into our strategic plan. It will be a great chance for our team to gain experience in this new event.

“We are new to the sport and have just started training, but we believe that preparing for Finswimming events is not too different. It uses a very similar technique to the events we have expertise in. Although the fish tail style – or fin – is new to us, we have the support of several regional federations including Singapore and Vietnam. We feel up to the challenge, but I guess we will have to see what our results look like after the games!”

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