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Rising up from adversity


Feb 09, 2022
NEWS SEA GAMES

Adversity impacts people differently, but for promising young sailor Heang Sunheng it has built character. The 21-year-old was so distraught following the sudden death of his uncle that he almost gave up sailing completely.

Sunheng reported to the training camp for the Southeast Asian Sailing Championship and helped his Cambodian teammates dominate the RS One windsurfing event, finishing first, second and third ahead of strong Singaporean competitors.

“I lost the will to do anything after my uncle passed on – but I am now ready to do my best for the nation and the sport,” said Sunheng.

Having lost his parents when still a toddler, his uncle became father figure. A motorcycle accident at the end of 2019 took his uncle’s life, and Sunheng was so emotionally drained that he felt no compulsion to continue with sailing.

Sunheng, who hails from Kampong Speu, took up the sport with the support of his uncle when still a teenager.

It was only in the week before the Southeast Asian Sailing Championship 2021 in Sihanoukville that national sailing coach Vin Kao Veasna managed to coax him back to the sport in which he holds so much promise.

And while Sunheng did not participate in Sihanoukville as he had not trained for the previous two years, he expects to be back at his best before Cambodia hosts the SEA Games in 2023.

Placed in a monastery following his parent’s demise, it was the timely intervention from his uncle that opened sailing up to him.

His uncle was serving in the Cambodian navy and staying at the Ream Naval Base, exposing Sunheng to the sport early on.

Sunheng proved to be a natural, learning the rudiments of sailing quickly and advancing faster than his peers.

In his first international outing in Thai sailing hotbed Pattaya, he finished fifth but captured the attention of others with his performance.

Speaking at the Southeast Asian Sailing Championship in Sihanoukville, he said the past two years had been an emotional rollercoaster ride for him.

“I was feeling a lot of pressure and it was not until I found another adoptive parent that things have changed,” said Sunheng.

He now works as a driver in Phnom Penh, and lives with the retired army officer who recently adopted him.

When Cambodia host the SEA Games in 2023, be sure to look out for this young man – one who has overcome adversity and is again finding peace in life.