HA NOI — Vietnamese gymnasts have been drawn in tough groups for the upcoming London Olympics.
|Fading dream: Phan Thi Ha Thanh has been drawn in a tough group for the upcoming London Olympics. — VNA/VNS Photo
Among the 49 competitors in the women's mixed group, world bronze medallist Phan Thi Ha Thanh has been drawn against rising star Maria Homolova of Slovakia, Masela Wyomi of the Netherlands who pocketed a bronze at an Olympic qualifying event in January, Simona Castro Lazo of Chile and Salma Mahmoud of Egypt, who both earned wild cards.
While Pham Phuoc Hung has been drawn against athletes from Kazakhstan, Portugal, Belarus and Tunisia, Bulgaria's Iordan Iovtchev is one of the most experienced Olympians set to participate at the Games, having won a silver on the rings and a bronze in the floor category in Athens in 2004.
As well as stiff competition, the Vietnamese athletes will face other obstacles.
" Thanh will be under pressure because her group will be the last to perform. Competing at around 8pm on July 29, she will know what she has to do to qualify for the top eight," said Nguyen Kim Lan, head of the gymnastics section of the National Sports Department.
"To make it to the finals, Thanh must avoid dropping points," Lan added.
One of the biggest challenges for Thanh, who is the first Vietnamese athlete to win an official Olympic ticket, is that she will be the first to compete on the vault. Despite it being her strongest event, the pressure will be high.
"Difficulty levels at the Olympics are far higher than at the World Championships, and gymnasts have only two practice attempts before they perform for real.
"It would be much better if the vault was her second or third event to help settle her nerves," Lan said.
However Thanh, 21, was calm about the news.
"The draw is irrelevant, I still have to try my best. There is nothing easy about competing at such a big competition as the Olympics," she said.
"I have been mentally preparing since the beginning of the year. My training is focused on perfecting my technique. I am ready to face the challenges to carry out my Olympic dream," Thanh said.
Finishing 27th at an Olympic qualifying event, Phuoc Hung grabbed the second ticket to London for Viet Nam.
Like Thanh, he will start with his strongest discipline, the parallel bars.
"This has happened at tournaments in the Netherlands, Japan and England, and my performances were not good. I was too nervous due to a lack of international experience," said Hung.
The 24-year-old athlete is also suffering from a knee injury and a herniated disc for which he receives daily physiotherapy.
"I don't think I have a chance of making it to the final of the all-round event, but I will do my best to make the top eight in the parallel bars and rings," he said.
Hung, Thanh and other key members of the national team will travel to China for a two-month training course starting next month.
They will then enjoy an intensive course over two weeks in South Korea in June before flying to London a week before the competition is scheduled to begin to familiarise themselves with the weather and conditions. — VNS