Like a duck to water

Feb 07, 2022

Sok Vorleak took to swimming like a duck to water when she was just a little girl. The 20-year-old is now the undisputed women’s breaststroke champion.

“I liked getting into the water oblivious to the dangers. My father was so afraid that I might drown started teaching me to swim,” said Vorleak.

Within two months of learning to swim, Vorleak was already making her debut in the age-group championships.

“I did win the heats in my very first competition, but could not make the final,” she lamented.

Her first medal came at a local tournament in 2013, when she was 11-years-old.

“I wanted to be better. I trained harder and overcame my fear of competing against more experienced swimmers. It was not easy but I was determined to be the best,” said Vorleak.

It was a target that she slowly but surely achieved. She now holds both the national 50m breaststroke (33.52s) and 100m breaststroke (1:14.01s) records and believes she can go even faster in future competitions.

“My ambition is to break the national record again and perhaps even international records. I want to win more medals,” added Vorleak.

One of her main targets is to win a medal, in her favourite 50m breaststroke event at Cambodia 2023. But to do so, she has to get her time in the event to sub-31.

“Swimmers from Singapore and Indonesia will be the biggest threat. I still have just over a year to bring my time lower. This year the target is to get my time down to sub 32s,” said Vorleak.

She hopes to get the chance to represent the kingdom at the Vietnam SEA Games this May.

“There are seven girls in the national team now and I hope to be one of them to make the trip to Vietnam. It will help me to improve my timing,” said a confident Vorleak.

Vorleak has also been showing her expanding portolio, winning three gold medals at the last national championships – the 50m and 100m breaststroke as well as the 50m butterfly.

While she has been dominating the local swimming scene, her biggest achievement to date was making the podium at the 2019 World Police and Fire Games in China.

She hopes that the new year would also be a competitive year for her, to be able to compete in more internationals in her bid to improve herself and bring glory to Cambodia.

The 20-year-old set a new national record of 50.83 in the men’s 50m breaststroke event at the World Junior Swimming Championships in Hungary. It was just a fraction better than the time set by his coach, Hem Thonponloeu, a two-time Olympian.

He also holds the new record in the 100m breaststroke, clocking 1:09:08 to better Thonponloeu’s record. He had since gone even faster clocking 1:06.63 at a local meet .

Lyheng follows in the path of his siblings Oung Lymeng and Oung Sany, who were both national swimmers. Lymeng gave up swimming to concentrate on the more gruelling triathlon since 2017.

“ My aim is to break more records and win for Cambodia and my coach has been a vital part in my swimming,” said Lyheng.

He added that his close relationship with Thonponloeu has reaped its benefits.

“He is like a very close friend off the swimming pool. But during training, he is a disciplinarian. He is very strict when it comes to training and has helped me improve more mentally and in my techniques,” said Lyheng.

Like his coach, previously, Lyheng has also started dominating the national swimming championships in the breaststroke discipline.

He has consistently mad ethe podium at the national championships, winning at least one gold, since 2015.

He won three individual gold (50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke) and one relay gold at the 2019 national championships but missed out on another four medal haul in 2020, winning three gold medals.

Lhyeng, who could not make the podium at the 2019 Manila SEA Games, hopes that more Cambodians will take up swimming.

“There has been too many drowning cases in Cambodia, especially the young kids. I hope they can all learn swimming properly to eradicate this loss of life,” said Lyheng.

Sok Vorleak's journey in swimming

Oung Lyheng's journey in swimming