Two Cambodians representing their country at the recent Asian Games in Indonesia brought home three medals in a marked improvement on past years’ performances.
Cambodian-American Jessa Khan, 16, won a gold medal in the Ju-Jitsu competition while Ou Moeut Saly also claimed gold and a bronze in the Jet Ski event.
Arriving at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday last week the pair were given a hero’s welcome and met with a guard of honor which escorted them to the Peace Palace, where they were greeted by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials.
Vat Chamroeun, head of the country’s Olympic Committee, said the team had surpassed expectations.
“We are doing better. Last time we won only one gold medal prize, but this year we won two gold and a bronze prize,” he said.
"We need to maintain our place in the games. We need to increase the number of medals, so we will have more support."
He added that young athletes were doing well in training and suggested Cambodia could only increase its medal count in the future.
“Most importantly, we are able to find high-performing athletes. They are everywhere, inside and outside the country as long as they have Cambodian blood,” he added.
Moeut Saly cried for joy when the results of the jet ski event were announced, telling VOA Khmer that he could not be more proud.
“This is the first year that jet ski was included in the games and the first time that I won a gold medal prize for Cambodia. So I am looking forward to getting more medals for our country.”
It was also the first time that Ju Jitsu was included in the history of the Asian Games.
Vivaddhana Khaou, president of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Cambodia, said the national team had been training physically and mentally for several months prior to the games.
"Because of the positive and great outcome of Ju Jitsu in the Asian Games, we are hoping for Olympics potential".
Khan, who won the Ju-Jitsu gold, beat Mahra Alhinaai from The United Arab Emirates in the final round of the women’s 49-kilogram event.
The next Asian Games is due to be held in 2022. Cambodia won its first gold at the games in 2014, when Sorn Seavmey, a 19-year-old martial arts specialist, won gold in the Taekwondo event.
Cambodia placed 24th out of 37 competing teams in the games’ medal table this year, with 46 athletes competing in 13 categories.