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Special Olympic Team Returns To No Fanfare

Thay Sokunthim won a gold medal for the 200 meter race at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles, July 25th to August 2, 2015. (Courtesy photo of Cambodian Special Olympic Delegation)

In recent years, Cambodian soccer has gained a lot of attention in the country, along with other sports, but the returning athletes from this year’s Special Olympics in Los Angeles received no fanfare.

That stands in sharp contrast to the welcome other athletes have received, despite their return with six medals, including two gold.

Early this August, athlete Sen Rady, who had won a gold medal in a martial arts championship in Algeria, was greeted with a parade. A similar welcome awaited Sorn Sivmey, a taekwondo gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games in 2014.

For the Special Olympiads, who returned in early August, there were no parades or motorcades, no prizes or congratulations from the prime minister.

Vat Chamrouen, chairman of National Olympic committee, who has organized parades for winners in the past, said he was not in charge of organizing for the Special Olympics. “I don’t know where they go, or what they do,” he said.

This is the third time that Cambodia has sent athletes to the Special Olympics, but their success, in Shanghai in 2007 and Athens in 2011, has garnered them little attention.

Kleng Chanthou, secretary-general for the Special Olympics Committee, said they had a small welcome at the airport this time, as well as small payment for their success. “It’s not as big as the other world championships, but our budget is limited.”

Touch Channy, a spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, said financial support for the Special Olympics is limited. However, he said, “the Special Olympics is more about motivation than competition.”