Yav Vannak’s rise as the national swimming champion is nothing but a fairy tale.
Just seven years ago, he was working as a pool cleaner, cleaning the very pool that the previous national swimmers trained. Within two years of taking up swimming himself, Vannak is now the undisputed national Para 50m freestyle champion.
He won his first national title in 2017 and has not looked back since, unbeaten over the distance at home.
Vannka said that taking up swimming as a career has changed his life.
“It has helped me to build my own house and helped me to support my family,” said the 27-year-old, who hails from Kempot.
Vannka, who has a left hip deformity, has no intention on slowing down or stopping swimming anytime in the near future.
“I am fully invested in furthering myself in swimming. I have not even thought about what I would do once I retire,” said Vannka.
Vannka’s best international achievement is winning the gold at the 2017 Asian Youth Para Games. He holds a personal best of 29.9s in the 50m freestyle.
“For now I hope to be at my best to win a medal when Cambodia hosts the Games next year,” he added.
As the sport had helped Vannak build a better life, he has also been trying to get more people to take up sports.
“I tried inviting relatives and friends but they found they were either unable to continue or did not have the talent to take up swimming competitively. They preferred to get other jobs instead,” said Vannak.
While disappointed in his failure to get more people to take up the sport, Vannak still wants to convince others to take up sports.
“I want to tell all disabled people, even if you have a job, you should take up sports. If you are good and talented it may help you financially. I have the same advise to those who are unemployed, If you get into sports, there is always a chance that you can make a better life for yourself,” he said.
Vannak himself is living for today, enjoying the benefits of taking up sports, a meteoric rise from a cleaner to a star sportsman.