Chea Kanha, initially without an inclination for sports, has found herself embraced by the world of wrestling. Hailing from Kratie province, Kanha was more focused on her studies than training, even though her mother had previously trained with two-time gold medallist wrestler Chov Sotheara.

However, unable to continue her studies due to challenging family circumstances, Kanha left her parents and younger sister behind to move to Phnom Penh with Sotheara.

Recognising her physical fitness and potential, Sotheara encouraged Kanha to commence her wrestling training in 2016. With the approval of her mother and under the guidance of Sotheara, she enrolled in wrestling training at the National Olympic Stadium, home to the Cambodian national wrestling team. Here, Kanha’s abilities rapidly flourished, allowing her to engage in various competitions organised by the Wrestling Federation of Cambodia.

Despite having to drop out in Grade 9, Kanha’s talent quickly shone through. She was soon selected by the federation to join the national nursery team after securing a bronze medal at a national championship. Rigorous training at the camp significantly honed Kanha’s skills, propelling her to compete for gold and silver medals in national competitions.

These accomplishments paved the way for her international debut, where she won a silver medal in the 65kg weight category at the 2022 ASEAN Wrestling Championship, a prestigious event hosted by Cambodia for the first time. Furthermore, at the 31st SEA Games held in Vietnam, Kanha proudly clinched a bronze medal.

Subsequently, she was chosen for a six-month intensive training programme in China in preparation for the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia. Through meticulous and precise training, Kanha achieved her aspiration of winning a gold medal for her motherland. This accomplishment was a testament to the remarkable performance of the Cambodian wrestling team, which broke records by securing a historic total of five gold, four silver and 11 bronze medals.

Despite the significant achievement of winning Cambodia’s first gold medal at the 32nd SEA Games at the age of 23, Kanha harbours even greater ambitions.

“From past results, I can say that I have succeeded for the SEA Games, but my goal is to elevate my abilities further as I aspire to compete at a higher level, such as world competitions, so I have to keep strengthening my ability to be able to get where I want to go,” she told The Post.

Currently, Kanha is in China for the second time, undergoing training with coach Sotheara and other sports delegates to prepare for the upcoming 19th Asian Games, scheduled from October 5-7. She detailed her rigorous training regimen, revealing how it enhanced her physical strength, techniques and especially her resilience. Despite the intense schedule and difficulties, Kanha feels a sense of warmth and close attention from the Chinese trainers.

“Training back home, if we experience minor injuries, we’re allowed some time to rest. However, in China, if our hand is injured, the coach instructs us to focus on training our legs, and vice versa. This ensures our abilities continue to improve consistently. Despite the challenges we face during training, we experience a sense of warmth, with close attention and careful care being characteristic of the training here,” she says.

With her eyes set on further strengthening her skills, Kanha is optimistic that her training will significantly enhance her technical abilities.

“The past six months of training have allowed me to accomplish my first goal of winning a gold medal at the SEA Games. However, I need to continue strengthening myself because another goal is to compete in the 2025 SEA Games, where I aim to win the gold medal once more. I firmly believe that my unwavering dedication to training and relentless pursuit of improvement will pave the way for me to achieve this goal,” Kanha adds.

Coach Sotheara expressed her willingness to help Kanha achieve commendable results at the 19th Asian Games before focusing on the 33rd SEA Games 2025 in Thailand.

“Kanha is already capable of winning a gold medal at the SEA Games. However, my focus is on her participation in the Asian Games. Even if we don’t achieve the desired outcome, I want her to at least reach the final round of competition. I hope that she can do it, and I am pushing her to go even further,” she said.

The coach, who represented the nation in multiple Asian Games, shared her aspiration for her protege. “In the 2010 Asian Games, I finished fifth, but my desire for my student is to win medals. Even securing a bronze medal would bring a sense of achievement. I have high hopes because we’ve already been training in China, so we are ready for this competition.”