PHNOM PENH: Everyone in Phnom Penh, it seems, wants a selfie with Bou Samnang.
The Cambodian runner has become a star of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games since her gritty performance in the 5,000m event. Although she came last, her determination to finish the race under torrential rain charmed the country and even won plaudits from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Videos of her crying after crossing the line have gone viral.
“I can say now I’m famous,” the 20-year-old said at the Morodok Techo Stadium, the scene of her unlikely rise to prominence, where passers-by were lining up for photos with her.
“Although I lost, they support me from the bottom of their hearts.”
This week’s race was not the first time Bou Samnang has had to show determination, but is the latest step on an athletics journey that started on ill-equipped dirt tracks and has defied health problems and bereavement.
“I knew I was losing. The rain was so heavy,” said the Phnom Penh native, whose mother is a housewife and whose father died in an accident a few years ago.
“I had the right to abandon the race, but first I have a duty to represent Cambodia. So I did not give up.”