As the 32nd SEA Games got underway in Cambodia, two of the Kingdom’s traditional sports were featured for the historic first time. The inclusion of Lbokator, the oldest of Cambodia’s martial arts, and ouk chaktrang, or Khmer chess, symbolised the confidence of modern Cambodia.

The Lbokator team secured their places as representatives of a proud nation, as they secured eight gold medals to dominate the competition.

On the opening day of competition, May 4, the team amazed their fans by claiming four golds. Over the remainder of the competition, they were able to win another four, finishing the Lbokator competition with eight gold, seven silver and three bronze medals.

As the realisation of what they had achieved dawned on them, the members of the team were moved to tears by their accomplishments. Their years of hard work had paid off, and they had won honour and glory for the Kingdom.

“This gold medal means more than I can say. This is the first time Lbokator has been contested at the SEA Games, and I am incredibly proud to have earned it for the nation, and on home soil,” said gold medalist Ponleu Pichmorakot.

Pichmorakot has been training in Lbokator for almost a decade.

“Our sport is a source of pride for the Kingdom, and our success has given us even more motivation. We are committed to spreading the fame of Lbokator. We want people to be talking about it in Europe and the rest of the world,” he added.

Five other nations joined the Lbokator competition, demonstrating its regional appeal.

Vietnam came in second behind Cambodia, with six gold and three bronze medals. Indonesia claimed third, with three gold, five silver and 12 bronze, while the Philippines placed fourth, taking two gold, six silver and eight bronze.

Myanmar secured fifth place with one gold, two silver and six bronze. Laos sat at the bottom of the table, after taking one gold, one silver and ten bronze medals.

The ouk chaktrang team, meanwhile, were less successful than their Lbokator counterparts, finishing third on the medal table. Thailand topped the table with four golds and a bronze, while Vietnam were able to secure second with two golds, one silver and seven bronze medals.

The Cambodian chess players captured one gold, four silvers and a bronze, beating out the Philippines, who earned two silver and three bronze medals, and Myanmar, who claimed a pair of bronzes.

“I was super excited to win gold, because this is a game that I have loved since I was a child. I used to dream of accomplishing something on the

world stage that would announce to the world what Cambodia is capable of, and now I have done it. The inclusion of our traditional form of chess, and my gold medal, have raised the Kingdom’s profile,” said men’s five-minute singles gold medalist Sok Lim Heng.

Minister of National Defence Tea Banh, who also heads the Cambodia SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) said at the May 9 closing ceremony of the Khmer chess tournament that ouk chaktrang had now been included in the games’ charter, as have Lbokator and Kun Khmer. This meant the three events could be offered at future games.

“It was really important that we promote ouk chaktrang, as this is the first time the Kingdom has hosted the games. Thanks to its inclusion, the SEA Council has included this sport in the SEA Games Federation Charter. It is a source of pride that Cambodian chess has been formally declared a regional sport,” he added.