|Trương Thị Kim Tuyền of Việt Nam (left) competes in the final match of the 31st SEA Games' women's 46kg class last May in Hà Nội. She will defend her title at the 32nd Games next month. VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Olympian Trương Thị Kim Tuyền exudes an air of confidence as she prepares to take on the best of the best at the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Despite facing fierce competitors from Thailand in both the women's 49kg and 46kg categories, Tuyền is determined to secure the gold medal.
Tuyền is no stranger to the SEA Games, having previously triumphed in the 46kg category. This time around, her final pool will be decided after a rigorous review by her coaches, who are gearing up to leave for Cambodia next week.
However, the path to the podium is riddled with challenges, particularly in the 49kg class where Tuyền will face her strongest opponent yet - Tennis Panipak Wongpattanakit.
The latter emerged victorious in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Games and went on to clinch the gold medal, cementing her status as the reigning champion of the SEA Games.
Meanwhile, in the 46kg category, Chutikan Jongkolrattanawattana is expected to put up a fierce fight against Tuyền. The two previously crossed paths in the final of the last Games, where Tuyền emerged victorious despite facing several difficulties.
While Tuyền may have to overcome these formidable opponents, another strong contender, Julanan Khantikulanon, is yet to confirm her participation. The Thai athlete has a solid track record, having secured a silver medal at the 2022 Asian Championship and winning gold in the SEA Games in 2017 and 2019.
As the tension mounts and the countdown to the SEA Games begins, Tuyền remains undaunted in her quest for gold.
"Either 49kg or 46kg is okay because I usually meet with Thai fighters in different arenas," said Tuyền, who won a gold at a Southeast Asian championship in the 49kg pool in March in the Philippines.
"I am familiar with them and not afraid of them at all. Of course, being a reigning champion, I will be under high pressure, which is available in all tournaments. The importance is that the coaching board has a good plan, and my teammates and I are prepared the best for every competition.
"I have to keep focused and bring into play my strong points to ensure my top place."
|Trương Thị Kim Tuyền (right) seen in the friendly competition match with a student of South Korean Dong-A University in early April in Hà Nội. Photo danviet.vn|
After the regional event, Tuyền and her teammates took part in an intensive training and internal competition with a taekwondo team from South Korean Dong-A University on April 11-12 in Hà Nội, which she believed was useful experience.
"They were students, but they were on the same level as us," Tuyền said. "They have really good technique and helped us to improve our abilities, learn new skills and earn more experience while fighting."
Tuyền has trained in taekwondo for almost ten years. She collected prestigious medals, including World silver in 2017, Asian golds in 2018 and 2021, SEA Games golds in 2015 and 2022, and a Southeast Asian gold in 2023.
At the 31st Games, Việt Nam secured five golds for both combat events. This year, Tuyền and the team are expected to win three.
"Due to the rule of the host, we could only register five among eight weight categories," said coach Vũ Anh Tuấn.
"At the Games, we also face naturalised athletes who are originally South Korean. These matters make the Games really competitive. So we have to calculate carefully before choosing suitable classes and athletes to ensure our target of two to three golds,"
He said the friendly competition with Dong-A students was the final touch in his team's preparation for the Games. Earlier, his fighters enjoyed one-month training in South Korea and tested their skills at the regional championship, taking seven golds.
"To date, all athletes are in good condition and in high mood," he said. "We will have half of the month to wrap up all activities and leave for Cambodia."
Taekwondo will be held from May 12-15 at the Chroy Changvar International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Phnom Penh. VNS