Cambodia ju-jitsu duo deliver first gold

 Cambodia ju-jitsu duo deliver first gold

bout 500 Cambodians, including Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh, packed into Hall B of the Chroy Changva Convention Centre on Thursday hoping to witness history, and they were rewarded as Kongmona Mithora and Touch Pikada delivered the first gold of these SEA Games for the hosts.

Kongmona, 24, said: “This gold medal means a lot to me and my country. I have been practising hapkido since I was a boy, and Touch has been practising taekwondo for five years.

“We started ju-jitsu only two years ago and now we want to think bigger and compete at the Asian and world levels.”

In the men’s duo event, athletes cover scenarios that comprise grip attack or strangulation, embrace attack or neck lock, hit attack (punch or kick) and armed attack (stick or knife). They are then judged for their speed, accuracy, control and realism.

Buoyed by the vociferous support, the duo put on a dynamic performance to see off Thailand’s Nawin Kokaew and Panuwat Deeyatam, who sobbed openly after losing the final showdown against the Cambodians.

Meanwhile, Vietnam and the Philippines shared bronze.

Touch, 21, added: “I’m so excited. When we went out to the mat to compete, there were so many Cambodians cheering for us.

“We are very proud to represent Cambodia and honoured to win the first gold for our country.”

However, it was not all smooth sailing for first-time hosts Cambodia in the other ju-jitsu events, as Heng Seavheang and Tim Sovanlina finished with a silver medal in the women’s show, behind Thailand’s Kunastri Kumsroi and Suphawadee Kaeosrasaen, while Vietnam and the Philippines shared bronze.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment came in the women’s ne-waza gi 52kg, when Cambodia’s hot favourite Jessa Khan – 2018 Asian Games and 2019 SEA Games champion in the 49kg category – lost her final round-robin showdown against Filipina Jenna Kaila Napolis.

After both athletes failed to make a breakthrough for most of the five-minute fight, Napolis managed to conjure a sweep from a lapel guard to earn the bout-winning two points.

While Texas-born Khan was disconsolate, Napolis, 25, said after avenging her loss in the 2019 final: “I was very nervous because Jessa is a very strong opponent and an idol even in the Philippines, so I’m super honoured and super happy to win the first gold medal for my country this year after losing in 2019.”

Thailand’s Nuchanat Singchalad and Vietnam’s Dang Thi Huyen shared the bronze while Singapore’s Teh May Yong, who had to step up a weight category as these Games do not include her usual 49kg category, missed out.

Nevertheless, the 30-year-old, who claimed bronze in the 49kg category in 2019, said: “My best chance to win a medal was to beat the Vietnamese girl in our last fight, but she countered my attempt at a straight ankle lock with a straight ankle lock and I tapped out.

“Against such illustrious opponents outside my usual weight category, this was good exposure and I’m proud to be able to qualify and compete.”