Dec 13, 2009
(Posted by CAAI News Media)
PHNOM PENH - AS CHIM Phan gracefully leaps for the ball on the dusty Cambodian volleyball court, it's hard to believe the star athlete is missing his lower leg - until you notice his tell-tale prosthetic limb.
He and his team-mates are the impoverished country's only world-ranking sports team, the top disabled volleyballers in the Asia-Pacific region and third-best in the world after Germany and Slovakia.
'We want to get to number one,' Chim Phan said after a tough training session ahead of the 2009 World Cup tournament, which begins on Monday in Phnom Penh with six nations battling for the championship. 'Now our disabled sport is well known, not only throughout Cambodia but also overseas. People were surprised that disabled people can play sport.... Now they recognise it and they're very interested.'
The 38-year-old's missing leg is a grim reminder of his country's three decades of bloody civil conflict and the 1970s genocide by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. In common with around 40,000 Cambodians, his life was devastated 12 years ago by one of the millions of landmines that still litter the countryside despite intensive demining efforts since the early 1990s.
'In the past I felt sorry for myself after I stepped on a landmine. But now I think I have the same ability as other people because I can work and I can play sport,' he said.
The father-of-three, who makes wheelchairs for a living, has applied his steely determination to becoming a medal-winning runner as well as one of the best players in the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled). The league, made up of ten provincial teams, was set up in 2003 to 'raise awareness about disability issues and the landmine issues,' said its Australian founder and secretary general, Chris Minko. -- AFP