Dancer Accuses SEA Games Selectors of Bias

A national dancer has resigned from the Cambodian DanceSport Federation (CDSF), accusing it of bias in picking candidates for the SEA Games this year in Vietnam. Photo provided

DanceSport Federation defends its decision

PHNOM PENH--A national dancer has resigned from the Cambodian DanceSport Federation (CDSF), accusing it of bias in picking candidates for the SEA Games this year in Vietnam.

The federation rejected the allegation.

Yi Eling, 17, said in her resignation letter that she was disappointed with the federation which transferred her from the national team and ignored her parents' protest over unfairness of selection for the Games.

Eling said that at first she was not happy with the selection and she protested because her name was not included. Eling, who specializes in Standard dance, said she believed in her ability because she had won first place and received a national award in Standard dance.

“Generally, a national competition is divided into Standard and Latin categories. I competed in the Standard category and won a gold medal,” she said.

“I won both in solo and duet categories. They had to take the first and second winners to compete in the SEA Games, but they did not take me.

“Instead, they took the duet Latin dancers who came in third to compete. If I was incompetent, I would not protest but they took the dancers with different specializations to compete in mine. Plus, they were in third place.”

Sov Tong, technical director of the CDSF technical committee, said the national competition is different from the international competition. And for the selection of dancers to compete abroad, the federation had discussed with the technical team thoroughly to find those with high ability.

In the past, Eling only won the medal for a solo category in the international competition, but her partner had never won a medal, Tong said.

Her partner, who had been trained for just a few months, contracted COVID-19, which required him to take online training.

Tong said online training was useless, while Eling also had a foot injury.

“We discuss the weaknesses of each pair to be finalized. We think of everything, such as her health. Her partner’s ability is still limited while Eling also has a sore leg. We do not want to send a weak duet to compete,” Tong said.

“Her new partner has no experience going to compete abroad, so we have to hold him back and provide more training. Her partner also has a health issue and has asked to resign.

“We cannot send him to compete. So, we send those who have experience and have won many medals. And the selection for the SEA Games is not just about the national competition. More criteria have to be considered.”

Eling admitted that she injured her foot before the 2021 national competition but she was still able to take part and win a national gold medal. She said she slipped two months before the competition, but the doctor said the accident did not affect her bones.

She had her foot checked several times, but the doctor could not find anything. She then went to see a physician as she still felt  soreness in her foot, but she said she had recovered since she regularly took medicine.

“They said I could not go to the SEA Games because my foot hurt. But they did not even ask me if I could practice. They did not ask for a medical certificate. My partner is sick, but does the federation give him a chance?” Eling said.

“They said my partner had just started dancing and had no experience going abroad. But I think it does not matter, what matters is that we won a gold medal. Therefore, we must be allowed to go to the competition because these are the rules of the competition.

“I was struggling with pain in my foot, but I still worked hard because I wanted a national gold medal to go to the SEA Games as this had been my goal. I could have broken my foot but I still tried to compete.”

She complained that from the time she had a sore foot until she recovered, the federation never asked about her condition or visited her. When the names of dancers were sent to the SEA Games in Vietnam, she asked her parents to protest but the federation ignored them.

Hang Simon, secretary-general of CDSF, said that Eling asking her parents to intervene in the technical affairs of the federation is against its rules.

Article 17 says parents, guardians or relatives have no right to interfere or protest in the administrative and technical affairs of the federation.

Simon said that on behalf of the Cambodia DanceSport Federation, she must comply with the rules and regulations, adding that the decision to remove Eling from the national team was based on a federal discussion and Eling’s mistakes, which had been made four times.

Her first mistake was in 2018 when she posted an argument related to the federation using inappropriate words, while the second mistake was posting on social media, which affected the reputation of herself and the federation, according to the documents provided by Simon.

The third mistake was that Eling's guardians interfered in the federation's technical affairs by protesting against the selection of dancers for the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines. The fourth mistake was that Eling's guardians are still interfering in federal affairs by protesting over the selection of dancers to participate in Vietnam.

“We have a technical committee and a federal penalty council, so doing things is not arbitrary. We decide by the collective and the whole meeting,” Simon said.

“We evaluate based on the strengths and weaknesses of the duet, everyday practices, and health. For me, as secretary-general, I only look at whether the selection is transparent and fair. I do not have the right to interfere in technical matters.”

Yi Chengwu, Eling's father, said that what made him unhappy was that his daughter had competed at the national level but was not allowed to compete abroad.

What made him even more upset was that the committee selected dancers with other dance skills to participate in the competition. He said he had the right to seek justice for his daughter since Eling was only 17 and needed the protection of her parents.

“The first-place winner in Standard dance was not allowed to go, but the third-place winner in Latin dance was sent to compete in Standard dance instead,” Chengwu said.

“The third-place winner is the daughter of the secretary-general of the federation. Is this called nepotism or corruption? When asked, many people said that my daughter was not competent enough, or that her partner had never had any experience.

“In sports rules, it is only when an individual makes a mistake that he or she is removed. But my daughter always complies with the rules and regulations. They said my daughter is not wrong, but her parents. Can the mother and father remain silent when their child faces injustice? They put a lot of pressure on Eling, but she did not give up. Now she is walking away.”

 Eling said she lost faith in the federation because, in the end, it removed her from the national team though it said it would solve her problem.

“If I do not practice every day, how can I win a gold medal? I do not back down because I have lost faith in the federation. I have endured for seven years, so if I go back, it will be like digging a pit for myself,” Eling said.

“The federation has done an injustice and put a lot of pressure on me. Is it wrong to demand justice for me? They used this excuse to drop me off the national team. My past efforts were worthless to them.

“I think if I continue to stay, I do not know when I will get justice. I will try to find other clubs to join, and if I have the opportunity, I will continue to study abroad.”

Simon said Eling failed to listen to the technical committee's judgment on her strengths and weaknesses, adding that not all national teams went to the SEA Games.

Vietnam will host the Games in May. Cambodia has prepared 33 sports to take part in. Cambodia will send eight dancers to compete in the Standard and Latin categories.


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