Cambodia is hoping to send a team of Special Olympics athletes to Los Angeles later this summer. The team of eight would compete amid 170 nations at the Summer Games July 21 through Aug. 3, in athletics and bocce. But Special Olympic officials say they so far lack the funding to send the team.
The competitors have trained for a year and two months so far, on weekend mornings with their coach, Chap Ratana, and with their families or home organizations.
“They listen to parents more than their coaches, so they can do it at home,” Chap Ratana said. “It requires commitment and effort. To train normal athletes is already hard, no to mention those with mental disabilities.”
Kleng Chanthou, secretary-general for the Special Olympics Committee, said the sports are more about encouragement than competition. “The Special Olympics are an opportunity for them to be a part of a sport, as well as society. Without Special Olympics, they seem to be isolated, they seem to have given up. After being a part of it, they change their behavior to be more active and healthy.”
On the athletics team are Uth Somath, Meas Makara, Vorn So Chou Lea, Kean Sreypov, and Phally Ampor Pich. On the bocce team are Beung Vuthy and Roth Samphors.
Khiev Chan Molly, the mother of Phally Ampor Pich, said the training had made her daughter happier. “She is now more energetic and more active,” she said. “She is much better than before.”
If they are able to go, this will be the third time Cambodia has competed in the Special Olympics Summer Games. In 2007, athletes returned with two gold, three silver and three bronze medals. In 2013, they returned with four gold, four silver and two bronze.
Kleng Chanthou said the current team faces funding problems and is seeking money to make the trip to Los Angeles. It is short about $20,000 and is seeking help from the Ministry of Social Affairs, he said. “The time is limited. I’m not sure if we can get the funding. We can send them to Los Angeles only if we can get sponsorship.”