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Cambodia to Send Its First Female Marathon Runner to Olympics

FILE - Cambodian flag-bearer Davin Sorn leads her nation's contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium, July 27, 2012.

Cambodia will send its first female competitor in the marathon to the Olympic Games in Rio later this year.

Nary Ly, 42, was named the country’s only female competitor for the 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) race, said Secretary General Vath Chamroeun of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia.

“Last year, she broke the record, under the 3-hour mark, for the women’s marathon, so she has better technique than the rest in Cambodia,” Chamroeun said, adding that Ly’s presence would be an inspiration for young female Cambodian runners.

“She could become a role model for marathon runners, since female Cambodian [marathon] runners are very hard to find,” he said. “It is the first time that a [Cambodian] female runner for the 42-kilometer run will go to the Olympics.”

Japanese marathon runner and comedian Neko Hiroshi, who became a naturalized Cambodian citizen in 2011, was also given a place on the team. Hiroshi was barred from taking part in the London Olympics in 2012 because the International Olympic Committee decided he had not spent enough time in the country since gaining citizenship.

“His nationality was not yet a year old, so they did not allow him at that time,” Chamroeun said. “But there is no one in Cambodia who could beat him.”

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer service.