Asian Games gold medallist Ju-Jitsu athlete Khan Jessa is confident that she will claim two gold medals for Cambodia, as she arrived in Phnom Penh from her home in the US.
The Cambodian-American athlete, along with her father and grandmother, arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport on May 1, where they received a warm welcome from Sar Sokha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and Pon Sok, president of the National Sports Training Centre, as well as many other Cambodian fans.
Jessa said the warmth of the crowd and their passionate support were perfect examples of the things that motivated her return to Cambodia for the SEA Games. The Ju-Jitsu competition will run from May 4 to 7, at the OCIC centre.
“Whether for the Asian Games or the SEA Games, my family and I are always really happy when we arrive in Cambodia. There are always people who are pleased to see me and offer their encouragement. This is why I am always working hard in training and competition in the US – to strengthen my ability to represent Cambodia,” she explained.
Jessa, who will fight in two different categories, the 52kg gi and the 52kg no-gi, expressed her confidence that she would be able to win gold for Cambodia in both classes, as she has competed at countless world-level tournaments and was aware of her opponents’ limited abilities.
“I doubt that there will be any problems or obstacles for me. I am familiar with the other entrants, and do not expect them to trouble me. I will win two medals for Cambodia.
“Of course, nothing is certain in sports, but I will do my level best to win glory for the Kingdom,” she said.
Jessa made her debut for Cambodia when she participated in the 18th Asian Games 2018 in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, claiming gold. She joined the SEA Games in Manila, the Philippines, for the first time in 2019, winning gold in the under-49kg category.
After claiming yet another gold medal at the 2022 Ju-Jitsu World Championship in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Ju-Jitsu Federation of Cambodia announced that Jessa was the clear favourite to top the tables at the 32nd SEA Games in the Kingdom.
During the 31st SEA Games – held in Vietnam in May 2022 after Indonesia transferred its hosting rights the year prior due to the Covid-19 pandemic – she was ruled ineligible to compete after failing to make weight by just 200g and being disqualified by Vietnamese officials.
“Losing my chance to take gold at the last SEA Games was our own fault, as we were perhaps unprepared for how stringent the officials would be. We are completely focused this time around, and that is not going to happen again,” she said.
Jessa’s grandmother, who is Cambodian, offered a further guarantee that the issue was not going to arise.
“At last year’s games, Jessa fought at 42kg, so it was difficult to cut weight for the competition. This year, she is competing in the 52kg class, so there won’t be a problem. I have total faith that Jessa will try her best to win a gold for the Kingdom,” she said.
Peter Khan, Jessa’s father and personal coach, agreed with his mother’s assessment.
“It is a source of pride for our family that Jessa will represent Cambodia at these games, especially as the Kingdom has been waiting 64 years to host them. She has always worked extremely hard in training and competitions, and wants the chance to repay the confidence that the Cambodian people have shown her,” he explained.