He may be the most recognised Cambodian para-athlete, but Van Vun knows just how difficult it is for anyone with disability to take up sports.
“It is very challenging for a disabled person to live a normal live, what more to take up sports,” said the 36-year-old.
Van Vun lost much use of his legs after he contracted polio when he was just two years old. But he has never given up on his desire to improve himself.
“I want to encourage anyone with disability not to give up on life. Don’t let the disability stop you from achieving what you want and can,” said the former radio and television technician.
He added that no one should give up on their hopes and ambitions, immaterial whether they were disabled or not.
Van Vun, who made his Paralympic debut in the in the wheelchair 100m race, added that corporate sponsors must come forward to assist disabled athletes.
“If you are a normal person and taking part in the marathon, you need to have a pair of good shoes, but for a para-athlete like me it is also about getting the right equipment and worry about not only about the repairs but also the additional costs in upgrading the equipment to keep up with the new technologies,” said Van Vun.
Without sponsorship and encouragement from all sectors, Van Vun is worried about the future of disabled sports.
“After my generation of athletes, I am not sure whether the younger generation of disabled athletes will take up sports,” he added.
He added that he hoped to coach others in the future but his sight are still on participating for the time being.
“I love a lot of sports since I was young, but because of my disability I took up wheelchair racing. I do not understand the other disabled sports well and racing was what I understood. Even then I had to push myself very hard to achieve what I wanted,” said Van Vun, who is married Pich Sokha, who also happens to be the niece of another disabled athlete.
The couple have two children – five-year-old Van Rothana and Van Sopheaktra, who is 18 months old.
“My wife is very supportive of my athletic career and having family members behind you is very important,” added Van Vun, who took up the sport in 2006.
He has a silver and two bronze medals from his previous two appearances at the SEA Games and hopes to upgrade it to gold when Cambodia hosts the Games next year."
“I have no timeline as to when I want to stop competing. For now I just want to push myself hard and prepare for Cambodia 2023,” said Van Vun, who hails from the Kandal province.
He did not win any medal at the Tokyo Paralympics last year, but ranks his appearance there as his most memorable moment of his athletic career.
“I managed to get past the heats and finished seventh in the finals. I never even believed I would make the trip to Tokyo because of the pandemic. Getting to Tokyo and finishing seventh is something that I will never forget easily,” said Van Vun.
He added that the entire community must work together for the success of Cambodia 2023.
“It really does not matter who we are, we all need to work as a team to achieve the best for the nation in 2023,” said Van Vun.
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