|High hopes: Gymnast Phan Thi Ha Thanh is Viet Nam's top gold medal hope at the 28th Southeast Asian Games. — Photo thethaohcm..vn
HA NOI (VNS) — Phan Thi Ha Thanh is not the only gold medal hope of Viet Nam at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but other gymnasts are also aiming to snatch at least eight titles in Singapore.
Gymnastics has made it back to the SEA Games after disappearing from its schedule in Myanmar two years ago.
Viet Nam are the No 1 gymnastics team in the region after winning 11 (out of 14) gold medals at the 2011 Games. Viet Nam will send 10 contenders, both seniors and juniors, to the 2015 Games.
Thanh is Viet Nam's top gold medal hope after she overcame many leading world athletes to claim her place in balance beam at a World Cup event in Bulgaria early this month.
She won a gold medal in the same event in the Qatar World Cup in March.
Thanh has reached a level where she does not have a worthy rival in the region.
The Olympian will compete in five events: vault, balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise, and individual all-around. According to her coach, she will win all the events without much difficulty.
"I am really excited as I will have a chance to compete in the SEA Games again; gymnastics was not organised in the 2013 Myanmar edition. I have been working hard and training courses have helped improve my technique," said 24-year-old Thanh.
"The SEA Games is one of my important competitions this year. After two World Cup titles, my next goal is to win in this Games and then seek a ticket to Rio Olympics next summer," Thanh noted.
In the 26th Games in Indonesia in 2011, Thanh won three titles (vault, all-round, floor exercise), while her teammate Nguyen Thi Ngan Thuong bagged the remaining two. After Thuong retired this year, it is Thanh's responsibility to win all the five titles. At the Asian Games (ASIAD) in 2014, Thanh took a silver and a bronze.
Young teammate Dinh Phuong Thanh will share the responsibility for the whole squad.
Thanh who pocketed a bronze at the ASIAD is expected to shine in the men's pommel horse category, parallel bars, and horizontal bars.
Coach Truong Tuan Hien said that despite his young age, Thanh is strong enough to compete for titles in Singapore.
According to Hien, Thanh has the potential to enter world-level athlete groups.
Le Thanh Tung who bagged a bronze medal at the Bulgarian World Cup's vault is expected to triumph in the SEA Games.
Dang Nam is the medal hope in the men's rings event as he is the defending champion.
Thanh, Tung, Nam, and two-time winner Pham Phuoc Hung are targeting gold medals in team events also.
"Basically, almost all the athletes of Viet Nam, including Thanh, Hung, and Nam, are experienced (in different international competitions). There are also some new faces who are our promising stars," said Nguyen Kim Lan, deputy head of the Elite Sports Department of the National Sports Administration.
"The coaching board has been paying a lot of attention to their athletes, especially in the form of sport nutrition and food, since the beginning of this year. We can see it reflecting in their good achievements," head coach Nguyen Thanh Thuy noted, adding that in general, they were all at their peak.
In Singapore, gymnastics events have been organised at the Bishan Sports Hall on June 6-10. — VNS