Disabled Cambodians Triumph Through Sport

San Mao takes podium place #1

Earlier this month the annual Angkor Wat International Half Marathon races and bike rallies was held, again a very successful event. One of the missions of the annual event is to raise money and awareness for the continuing challenges of land mine victims, the handicaps they have and the artificial limbs and physical rehabilitation they need.

The New York Times recently ran a great article on the event, showcasing the race achievements and life struggles of Mr. San Mao, a land mine victim at the age of 17 and this year at the age of 35, the winner of the 10K run for people with artificial limbs.

…But when Mr. San Mao, then 17, found he was unable to get up from the forest floor, he realized that the lower part of his right leg was gone — blown off by one of the millions of land mines planted across the country during its decades of conflict. Many mines still lurk dangerously in rural areas.

After he lost his leg, Mr. San Mao was unable to resume his work clearing fields for farming. People looked down on him, he said, and no one would give him a job. But on Sunday morning, any sense of despair seemed well behind him. Against the majestic backdrop of the Angkor Wat temple ruins, Mr. San Mao, 35, grinned broadly as he climbed a podium to be crowned the champion of the 10-kilometer, or 6.2-mile, race for athletes with artificial legs, held as part of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon…

For Mr. San Mao, who has competed in Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Korea and trains twice a week with the Cambodian Disabled Athletics Federation, the win Sunday was bittersweet. He says he knows he could have run faster — if only he had had the proper prosthesis. Mr. San Mao, who won his division every year from 2002 to 2007, last year broke the prosthesis he used specially for running.

Since then, he has been forced to compete with the artificial limb that he wears every day because he cannot afford to have his running prosthesis fixed, or find a donor to buy a new one.

The article also spends some time on Cambodia’s successful international disabled volleyball team:

The success of the national volleyball team — which finished seventh at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics, beating the host nation — has helped raise the profile of disabled athletes in Cambodia.

The team, which will compete in the World Organization Volleyball for Disabled World Cup 2009 in Phnom Penh later this month, is ranked third in the world and is aiming for the top spot.

You can read the entire article here.

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services!)

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~ by Leonard on December 18, 2009.

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