|Việt Nam's female wrestling team seen training in preparation for the 32nd SEA Games. VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam has the strongest team in the region in wrestling after their domination in many SEA Games, but face a big challenge from Cambodia to defend their top spot.
Vietnamese wrestlers secured 17 out of 18 gold medals available at the 31st SEA Games in Hà Nội.
The only one they didn’t win went to Cambodian Sou Bali who is a naturalised athlete from Iran. The team also had a silver by Mo Sari, a former athlete of Iran, along with two bronze won by native athletes.
Months after the 31st Games, Cambodia won three golds, three silvers and 13 bronzes, a huge achievement after a plan to use foreign experts.
Since then, more Iranians have been brought into the men's categories while they welcome female wrestlers from South Korea.
The hosts are making things difficult for other countries by creating a special regulation. It allows Cambodia to compete in all weight categories but other countries can only take part in 60 per cent.
It is the reason why defending champion Việt Nam set their target of up to 12 gold medals this May.
|Trần Văn Sơn watches and advices his athletes during their training. VNA/VNS Photo|
"There are two main reasons for this target," said Tạ Tùng Đức, manager of the Wrestling Department of the Việt Nam Sports Administration.
"First, among 30 sets of medals for three styles of wrestling, we could only compete in 18 for both men and women.
"Second, apart from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines which are our main rivals in SEA Games, Cambodia have become a threatening force after they added powerful rivals who are originally from China, Iran and South Korea in this Games. They will be big obstacles for us to reach our goal of nine to 12 golds.
"Therefore, we have to calculate carefully to ensure the best results, proving Việt Nam's reign in the region."
|Men's athletes will face strong naturalised wrestlers from Iran at the 32nd SEA Games. Photo danviet.vn|
Prior to the Games, athletes competed in the National Wrestling Cup in March and all of them showed their power with gold medals.
Later, they took part in the Asian championship from April 9-14 in Kazakhstan. It was an out-of-reach event for Vietnamese wrestlers but according to Đức, they sharpened their skills and strengthened their competitive mind.
Coach Tạ Ngọc Tân said: "We have made small changes in the team compared to the 31st Games. Our champion of men's 130kg Hà Văn Hiếu retired. So we have had to find a suitable replacement.
"We are happy to have two talented athletes Nguyễn Minh Huy and Nguyễn Công Mạnh in the team. They are expected to surprise in the men's 55kg and men's 72kg, respectively."
The coach said nine to 12 golds was a suitable target for Việt Nam which also prepared for other international competitions including the world championship and Asian Games later this year.
|Coach and athletes review their work after training. Wrestling is one of Việt Nam's strongest sports in SEA Games. Photo danviet.vn|
The team will travel to Cambodia on May 11, two days prior to their first matches. The four- day event will be held at the Chroy Changvar International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh. VNS