At the close of 2016, The Myanmar Times spoke with five members of Myanmar’s 2016 Olympic squad about moments of triumph and defeat, trying Brazilian cuisine, and the memories they took home from Rio.
San Yu Htwe – Archery
San Yu Htwe kicked off Myanmar’s medal bid with a bang, beating Finland’s Taru Kuoppa and American Mackenzie Brown by the same score of 7-3 in the first two rounds before losing to world number-one Ki Bo-bae from South Korea in the last-16, 6-0. Before setting foot in Rio, she had earned 3 golds, 5 silvers and 9 bronzes in regional competition, including a bronze at the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
“Rio was the first Olympic Games for me, and I am so proud to have been an Olympic contender. I was excited, but also a little bit worried because the Olympic Archery field is very big and grand. But I got myself under control, and as I got through the first and second rounds, I gained confidence.”
“In the round of 16, I faced Ki Bo-bae. She is one of my idols. I watched her in my training to improve my style. So I was a little intimidated, and wasn’t able to do my best. But I got a lot of experience in Rio, and I hope I’ll keep improving to compete at the next Olympics [Tokyo 2020]. Until then, I have to focus on the SEA Games.”
Yan Naing Soe – Judo
Yan Naing Soe arrived in Rio knowing it would be his first and last Olympic Games. At 38, he was the oldest competitor in the men’s 100kg category, where he beat Christopher George of Trinidad and Tobago in the second round before losing to Germany’s Karl Richard Frey and missing the quarter-final.
“The judogi [judo uniform] caused me a bit of trouble at the Olympics, because I was competing with my SEA Games judogi. The judges accepted it in second-round match, but objected to it in the third round, because it included a sponsorship logo. This was a problem – the judogi has to match the judoka. But my new judogi sleeves were too long for my arms. My opponent used this to his advantage, and pulled the sleeves over my hands. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to do my best.”
Ei Thet – Swimming
The 2013 SEA Games bronze medallist, Ei Thet placed only 70 of 80 in the women’s 50m freestyle with a time of 30.25 seconds.
“I’ve competed at Asian Games and SEA Games before, but I can’t say how excited I was for the chance to compete in the Olympics. But our coaches were not included in the Rio delegation, so we had to motivate and prepare ourselves on our own. It wasn’t easy.”
“The water was so cold in Brazil! We had to warm ourselves up often before events. Also, the technique is very different from SEA Games races. So I had a chance to learn from Olympic contenders, how to prepare yourself before the heat.”
Ye Tun Naung – Shooting
The only Myanmar athlete who qualified on merit and its best hope for a medal, Ye Tun Naung’s silver medal at the world shooting champions booked his ticket to Rio. But he disappointed in Rio, ending 17th of 41 in the men’s 50m pistol and 33rd of 46 in the men’s 10m air pistol.
“The Olympics is a world-class competition, so I faced very tough opponents. Many of the world champion shooters were to Rio, and there I was, without coaches or a second. I had to do everything by myself, like preparing and practicing and point-counting.”
“I didn’t think the weather in Brazil was too different from Myanmar, but the food was so different! In Brazil, the main food groups are bread and meat. The bread is tough, and takes a long time to digest. So I mostly stuck to vegetable and a little bread.”
“The Rio athletes’ village was strange, but the facilities weren’t bad. I made some friends among the other athletes. I didn’t have a chance to do any touring, because shooting was one of the final sports, and I was training. After the event, the other Myanmar athletes’ sports were already finished, so we went home.”
San Naing – Athletics
The 2015 SEA Games bronze medallist, San Naing came up short, ranking 49th of 51 in the men’s 5000m.
“Rio was my first Olympic Games, so I was very excited about that, but I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. I didn’t even reach my own record, in part because I didn’t have enough time to prepare. The SEA Games record and Olympic records are so far apart! But I had a chance to learn from world champion athletes at the Olympics.” He said.
“The athletes’ village wasn’t bad, but their facilities weren’t too impressive, considering it is a world-class competition. It was similar to the SEA Games. And the food was not right for Myanmar athletes. They tried to make Southeast Asian food, but it wasn’t authentic.”
“We had a chance to do some sight-seeing when our races were over, but I didn’t go out too much because of the Zika virus warning. So I mostly rested in my room in the athletes’ village.”
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