Friday, August 8, 2008

Cambodian marathoner running through poverty to attend Olympics in China 2008

Hem Bun Ting on left, and Sou Titlinda on Right.

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's Hem Bunting is certain his rivals' preparations for the Beijing Olympics marathon would have been a lot different to his.

Unlike his fellow athletes, Bunting has no coach and trains on the busy potholed streets of the impoverished nation's capital Phnom Penh.

He accepts he has to do it all by himself.

"I have been mostly training alone," Bunting told Reporters after a hazardous jog dodging potholes and motorcycles.

"I sometimes can't find a good place to practice because our national stadium is always being used by footballers.

"I've been doing this four years, but I do it because I love to run," added Bunting, whose best time is 24 minutes shy of the marathon world record.

Born to a peasant family in a remote province of northeastern Cambodia 23 years ago, Bunting is one of only four athletes representing the war-scarred Southeast Asian nation in Beijing.

He lives off just $30 a month and the $10 running shoes which helped him win two Southeast Asian Games medals last year have seen better days.


"I think the one that costs $200 would be more suitable for an Olympic marathon," added Bunting, who said his energetic puppy sometimes joins him on his otherwise lonely runs.

"I have no money, what can I do?"

Cambodia has never won an Olympic medal and its greatest sporting success came in 1970 when its athletes won two silvers and three bronzes at the Asian Games in Bangkok.

A brutal civil war and a subsequent Olympic ban ensured there were no more after that.

Although a generous gesture, it is unlikely long-serving Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will have to pay athletes for a Beijing podium finish.

The International Olympic Committee ensured 14 officials accompany its Cambodia's two swimmers and two runners into the Beijing Olympics 2008.

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