Bou Samnang Lost Southeast Asian Games Race, but Won Praise

Runner quantity 401 was lifeless drained and affected by low blood stress. She was additionally final by a large margin within the 5,000 meters and plodding alone, via a raucous rainstorm, across the observe of a near-empty stadium.

Bou Samnang, 20, completed the race anyway.

Her rain-soaked efficiency on the Southeast Asian Games — this yr’s version was hosted this month by her residence nation, Cambodia — would have been a footnote in a event that’s unknown to most sporting followers outdoors the area. But when video of it circulated extensively on social media, she grew to become an unlikely nationwide celeb.

“I knew that I’d not win, but I advised myself that I mustn’t cease,” she mentioned in an interview.

As she struggled on, it helped {that a} small group of supporters had been applauding furiously, she added, and that she felt an obligation to complete as a result of she was representing her nation.

Mrs. Bou Samnang, who graduated from highschool final yr, didn’t anticipate to draw worldwide consideration when she arrived on May 8 for the 5,000-meter closing in Phnom Penh, the capital and her hometown. She was grateful simply to be competing.

Just a few weeks earlier, Ms. Bou Samnang had suffered from a very dangerous bout of low blood stress, a results of her continual anemia, whereas she was coaching within the southwestern Chinese metropolis of Kunming. A health care provider advised her to cease operating for some time, and her coach, Kieng Samorn, didn’t insist in any other case.

“She has a well being drawback,” Mr. Kieng Samorn mentioned. “We cannot pressure her.”

But Ms. Bou Samnang mentioned she was desirous to run on the Southeast Asian Games, her first worldwide competitors, and her coach didn’t stand in her means.

In the 5,000-meter girls’s closing, held in a flippantly attended 60,000-seat stadium, Ms. Bou Samnang gathered on the beginning line alongside a number of the area’s finest runners. The eventual winner, Nguyen Thi Oanh of Vietnam, is an Olympian who gained a number of golds at earlier Southeast Asian Games.

After the beginning gun sounded and the runners fell into formation, Ms. Bou Samnang took a place in direction of the again of the pack. Within a minute or so, she had fallen to this point behind that she was not seen in a lot of the tv protection.

But she stored going, at the same time as Ms. Oanh and different runners completed, the skies opened up, and a few followers misplaced curiosity.

Mrs. Bou Samnang would end in 22 minutes and 54 seconds — almost six minutes behind Ms. Oanh of Vietnam and about 90 seconds behind a compatriot, Run Romdul. By then the stadium floodlights had been out, water was pooling on the observe, and her pink sneakers and crimson uniform had been utterly soaked via.

Her efficiency recalled different runners who persevered, together with a couple of who famously gained observe occasions after falling. One is Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who did so within the 1,500-meter occasion on the Tokyo Olympics two years in the past.

Runners do not are likely to win a lot reward in the event that they lose by a large margin. One exception is in long-distance occasions, the place it’s common to have fun the final finisher, mentioned Steve Brammar, the secretary common of the Trail Runners Association of Hong Kong. The ultramarathon path race that he directs there has an “Ultimate Finisher” trophy for simply that function.

Mrs. Bou Samnang’s “perseverance was inspiring and actually appears to have warmed hearts and captured imaginations,” Mr. Brammar mentioned in an e mail.

After ending final within the 5,000-meter race this month, Ms. Bou Samnang’s well being prevented her operating the 1,500-meter occasion, as deliberate, her coach mentioned. But after a video of her decided efficiency circulated on-line, she obtained public reward from Cambodia’s king and a $10,000 bonus from Prime Minister Hun Sen and his spouse, equal to a number of years of a mean Cambodian’s earnings.

Mrs. Bou Samnang, whose father died in 2018, is the third of 4 youngsters. She mentioned she would use the bonus to check legislation at a Cambodian college, and that she deliberate to maintain operating competitively.

Her mom, Mai Met, mentioned that she cried after listening to that her daughter had completed final within the 5,000-meter race. But that unhappiness was tempered by the outpouring of public assist that got here later.

“I’m delighted,” mentioned Ms. Mai Met, 44, who has lengthy supported the household by working in garment factories.

Her decided end illustrated an “perfect of sport,” mentioned Edgar Ok. Tham, a sports activities psychologist in Singapore who works with athletes round Southeast Asia.

He mentioned the eye Ms. Bou Samnang has obtained is notable partly as a result of Cambodian athletes are likely to fare higher in fight sports activities than observe occasions in regional competitions.

But the instance she set, he added, will resonate far past Southeast Asia.

“That’s what life’s about: transferring ahead and utilizing failures as classes to bounce again,” he mentioned. “If you’re taking it on this spirit, it is one thing inspirational.”

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