News

    Koreans, North and South, Train Cambodian Olympic Hopefuls

    Cambodian Wrestler Chov Sotheara trains with another wrestler while a North Korean Coach watches, Phenom Penh, Cambodia, February 2012.
    Cambodian Wrestler Chov Sotheara trains with another wrestler while a North Korean Coach watches, Phenom Penh, Cambodia, February 2012.

    Cambodia has never won an Olympic medal, but at this year’s games in London, the country will try to break the streak with some Korean help.

    Two of Cambodia’s Olympic hopefuls have Korean coaches - one from the South and one from the North. 

    Chov Sotheara is one of only a few Cambodian athletes who could qualify for the London Olympics. Driven to win in a sport dominated by men, she says her strict North Korean coach, Pak So Nam, gives her an edge, despite the language barrier.

    “We use sign language," Chov said. "In this sport there are hand signals and grabbing.  So, he shows us each movement and then all of us just follow him.  And, if we make mistakes he corrects us.”

    Pak is known for a relentless coaching drive that leaves little time for outside activities. Although he has lived here for several years, he speaks little Khmer or English. But his team loyalties, and those of his North Korean assistants, are firm.

    “You ask me whom I want to win if my athletes compete with North Korean athletes. Personally, I think, even between parents and a son, it is still a competition in sports games.  So I want the athletes who I train to win,” Pak said.

    The team has bonded, despite the language barrier. Sotheara said she loves her coach like a father. When North Korea’s authoritarian leader Kim Jong Il died in December she and the rest of the team supported the coach.

    “He was depressed," she said. "He went to pay condolences at the North Korean embassy next to the prime minister's house. Our wrestling team was also mourning and took flowers to the North Korean Embassy.”

    The team’s Cambodian coach, Hok Cheeangkim, said Pak initially needed to tone down his occasionally violent coaching style that treated the athletes like soldiers. Nonetheless, Hok credits him with Sotheara’s gold medal in Laos at the 2009 Southeast Asian Games.

    “North Korea is at the Olympic level," said Hok. "They won all the medals-gold, silver, bronze.  Both North Korea and South Korea are strong, but North Korea is stronger.”

    (photo credit:  VOA - Daniel Schearf)

    Training right next to the North Korean instructors for the past six years is South Korean Taekwondo coach Choi Yong-suk.

    Choi said while there is sporting competition between him and the North Koreans, they share a desire to push the Cambodian team.

    “Sports mean unity," he said. "So, we do not consider such things as political ideology.  I think there is no problem for us to have a good relationship since we are sportsmen training within the same environment.”

    Choi is also training an Olympic hopeful, Sorn Davin, who said that unlike Sotheara, she would not want to be coached by North Koreans because they are communists.  But she does not mind sharing the gym.

    "Each team tries not to be weaker than the other, so it is quite competitive because we are training next to each other and our categories are quite similar," she said. "So, we try to be stronger."

    With five months to go until the start of the games, these athletes are still waiting to see if they will qualify. Sorn Davin is waiting for a wildcard Taekwondo spot.  Sotheara hopes a win in Kazakhstan later in March will earn her a spot in London.

    VOA Khmer Service Correspondent MonySay and Cameraman Zinlat Aung contributed to this story.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora