Sunday, December 13, 2009

A load of boules

Gold medalist and SEA Games singles champion, again, Sok Chanmean
Friday morning, before the afternoon football match against Vietnam, I went to join with some of the other Cambodian competitors at the SEA Games and particularly the petanque team, of whom great things are expected. Their court is right next to the Games Village and when I arrived the petanque team - 12 men and 12 women - were all getting their eye in on the practice area. I spoke for quite a while with one of the women's triples team, Oum Chantrea, who spoke very good English. She pointed out all the players for me and gave me some background on the various categories of petanque, or boules as she called it. She also told me she trains for many hours every day, especially in the lead up to the SEA Games, where Cambodia and Thailand are always battling it out for the medals. Though she's on the books of the police force in Phnom Penh, she's travelled widely through Asia with the petanque team and loves her sport and the comraderie with her team. I met the two singles competitors, 2007 gold medalist Sok Chamean, who is the brightest star of the whole team, and ladies national champion Ouk Sreymom, who Chantrea said; 'she looks like a man,' though that didn't stop her in the semi-final I watched, from blitzing her opponent, though she had to later settle for the silver medal in the afternoon final. The team were very vocal in their support for each other and everyone took what vanatge point they could to watch the morning's semi-finals. In the scorching sun, both of the Cambodians marched through to the finals, where Chanmean repeated his 2007 success.
After the semis ended I wandered over to the building where the taekwondo tournament was being held. Though the Cambodian team wasn't due to fight until later that day, I did meet up with some of the team, including the medalists from the day before, brother and sister duo, Sorn Elit and Sorn Davin, who have got to be the tallest Cambodians I've ever met. I also chatted to Ung Chamroeun, my colleague from the Phnom Penh Post, who was darting about covering as many sports as he could, though he was a bit down after his favoured tennis teams were knocked out of the team event at the first hurdle. As I type, Cambodia has 11 medals, 7 in taekwondo and 4 in petanque, with the latter giving us our 2 golds so far.
Ladies singles silver medalist, Ouk Sreymom
Sok Chanmean in serious concentration mode during his semi
The two Cambodian medalists together at the end of their semis
A view of the petanque court next to the Games Village, at the national university complex
A giant of a man and a silver medalist in taekwondo, Sorn Elit
A family to be proud of, Sorn Davin (bronze) and Sorn Elit (silver), both taekwondo medalists
I bumped into Sompong Soleb, the Thailand striker who looks likely to be the tournament's top scorer with 2 hat-tricks, though the Thais are now out
Vietnam boss Henrique Calisto is mobbed by the press after the win over Cambodia
A massive Vietnam flag is paraded before the game, where Vietnam fans outnumbered Cambodians by 1,000 to 1

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