|Victorious: Wrestler Nguyen Huy Ha will defend his 55kg category title at the Myanmar SEA Games. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
HA NOI — Wrestlers are confident they may pick up six gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games, taking place in Myanmar next month.
"We have registered to compete in 12 categories of wrestling, as many as possible. I believe it won't be difficult to bring home six gold medals. We managed eight at the last Games in Indonesia," said Nguyen The Long, head of the Wrestling Department of the National Sports Administration.
"The important thing for the whole team now is to avoid injury during the training period to ensure they are in good spirits and top physique condition," Long said.
This December will see a strong lineup of 15 athletes across three categories: men's and women's freestyle and men's Greco-Roman. Approximately one third of the contingent will be making their SEA Games debut.
Among them Khong Van Khoa (men's 74kg Greco-Roman), Nguyen Huy Ha (men's 55kg freestyle), Nguyen The Anh (men's 60kg freestyle) and Bui Tuan Anh (men's 66kg freestyle) are strongly believed to defend their titles.
On the women's side, the world junior silver medallist and Asian champion Vu Thi Hang will fight to dominate the 48kg division.
Although it will be her first SEA Games the young star has already competed at the international level, attending the Asian Championships.
Nguyen Thi Lua, an Asian Games silver medalist and the only Vietnamese wrestler to take part in the London Olympics 2012, will compete in the 51kg division.
"I can not predict what our athletes will achieve at the SEA Games, but I am positive the determination and talent I have seen during training will bring positive results," said expert Edem Abduraimov.
"I have watched some teams from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines where wrestling is developed. I believe that Viet Nam has a long history in wrestling and that in general Vietnamese athletes are stronger," said Abduraimov.
"We have an interesting practise curriculum which in my opinion is suitable for us to improve our skills and technique. I am really excited and feeling more confident each day," said defending champion Khoa.
Two-time winner Ha shared: "I am training hard to defend my title in the 55kg pool. Although I have no information about my rivals, I have had the chance to take part in some competitions including the recent world tournament. This experience has given me confidence for the upcoming Games."
Despite high hopes, challenges lie ahead for the team .
The rules of the game have been changed. One round will take place in three minutes instead of two minutes, which will demand greater strength, stamina, endurance, and skill to compete, according to coach Long.
The other challenge lies in the fact the athletes were only summoned for five months. According to coach Nguyen Van Truc of the Greco-Roman team, the shorter lead time has allowed for less preparation by athletes.
Wrestler Khoa also believes poor training may disadvantage athletes; with old equipment and outdated routines failing to meet basic requirements and creating high risks of injuries.
Head coach Doi Dang Hy maintained the SEA Games was a tough competition with many teams, including Thailand, enlisting talented wrestlers in recent years.
The Vietnamese side will look to build on the result from two years ago, where the contingent picked up eight gold medals, behind the nation's gymnastics squad which nabbed 11 titles.
However, experts are optimistic, with the squad having brought home 46 gold medals since the 22nd Games held in Viet Nam back in 2003.
Wrestling events will take place between December 7-13 in Myanmar's former capital city, Yangon. — VNS