Cambodia women see future in sports and big muscles

Cambodia women are rising fast in the wide world of sports. Pétanque player Duch Sophorn has alone won gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions over the past decade.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Cambodia women are breaking free of social stigmas and disproving myths to succeed in the world of sports.

Vath Chamroeurn, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, says that over the past several years women have accounted for 30 percent of the total population of athletes representing Cambodia in international contests. In 2009 alone, Cambodian female athletes won one gold medal, four silvers, and 13 bronzes in the 25th Southeast Asian Games held in Laos. Events included pétanque, tae kwon do, volleyball, weight lifting, and wrestling.

Lack Som Ath, general director of the General Department of Sports at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, says that Cambodian female athletes participate in as many as 20 sports.

One shining example is Duch Sophorn – Cambodia’s finest player of pétanque (a form of boules), who has won gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions over the past 10 years. Her success has inspired many young girls to pursue athletics. But she admits it has come at a price in a society that views athletic-looking women as sterile and unattractive.

“I have developed muscles and [I am] very strong. [If] men don’t like me, I don’t care, as long as I love myself,” says Ms. Sophorn.


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