Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Two years ago, Vietnamese gymnasts brought home nine gold medals from the Singapore Southeast Asian Games. At the upcoming Games in Malaysia, Việt Nam will compete in all disciplines, but the target is only one third of that.
So what is going wrong?
The first reason is that organizers of the SEA Games have reduced the number of events from 14 to 12. The two events that will not be held are the men’s and women’s individual all-round categories, which were dominated by Vietnamese athletes at the previous Games.
The second reason is the absence of "gymnastic queen" Phan Thị Hà Thanh, who retired last year. In Singapore, Thanh won three titles in the women’s individual all-round, vault and balance beam categories.
Following Thanh’s retirement, Việt Nam’s women team have not found a strong athlete who can carry forward her task.
There are five female athletes competing at the SEA Games, but their chances of winning are uncertain.
“Following Thanh’s departure, only Trương Khánh Vân, who is participating in the balance beam and floor, and Nguyễn Thị Huỳnh Như, a competitor in the vault, can be considered medal favourites. The others are still young and lack international experience, although in terms of technique they can beat the top three,” coach Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thúy said.
“The women’s squad just participated in two local tournaments and I saw their progress, especially in terms of their mentality. Hopefully they can bring that into play in Malaysia. In my opinion, a berth in the top three is a success for us,” she added.
The gold medal target has been given to the men’s team.
“Compared with other teams in the region, Việt Nam are the strongest. However, this year, countries have strongly supported their athletes, therefore, we will face challenges,” head coach Trương Tuấn Hiền said.
“The men’s crew just set a target of three goals; it will be a heavy-duty tournament for them. They have worked hard. It is difficult to say prior to the events, but I believe they know how to overcome challenges to complete their task,” Hiền said.
“We have powerful athletes such as Đinh Phương Thành, Bùi Đặng Nam, Phạm Phước Hưng and Lê Thanh Tùng. They can all take top positions,” he said.
In preparation for the Kuala Lumpur Games, the athletes enjoyed a three-week training course in Wuhan, China, in July.
“The course helped players improve their technique. Now they are excited and ready for the Games,” coach Trương Minh Sang said.
Hanoian Đinh Phương Thành is the golden hope of the team. He was the first Vietnamese to win the SEA Games all-round title, apart from winning in the parallel, horizontal bars and team events.
Although the all-round category is not taking place this year, Thành still has other targets.
“I am confident about the parallel and horizontal bars. At present, my performance on the pommel horse is also okay. I hope I can succeed in all three categories,” Thành, who won a bronze medal in the parallel event at the Asian championship in May, said.
The other hope is Lê Thanh Tùng, who has made remarkable progress in his career at international competitions.
The SEA Games defending champion grabbed a gold medal in vault at the Qatar World Cup in March and then went on to triumph at the Asian championship two months later in Thailand.
“Tùng was born in 1995. He is one of the young and talented gymnasts of Việt Nam. His success in Thailand was great and it would be strong push not only for him, but also for Việt Nam’s gymnastics at international tournaments, including the SEA Games,” coach Sang said.
Gymnast Đặng Nam is competing in the rings event, He overcame teammate Phạm Phước Hưng and Weena Chokpaoumpai of Thailand to win two years ago in Singapore.
Nam, who also won at the Myanmar Games in 2013, is hoping to complete a hattrick of gold at his third consecutive SEA Games next week.
Hưng, who is the most experienced member of the team, will participate in five out of six individual events in Malaysia.
The two-time Olympian thinks this could be his last time at the SEA Games.
“I will try my best to get a high score, which would not only help me pocket my own medal, but also contribute to the team event,” Hưng said during his last days of training in Hà Nội.
Hưng, who has won six SEA Games gold medals in his 20 years of competing, expects to top the podium at least once this August. At the last Games, he participated in five events and bagged one gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Thành, Tùng, Nam and Hưng are also set to help their team win the event title.
Gymnastics will be organised on August 20-23 at the MiTEC Hall in Kuala Lumpur. — VNS