Judokas target three golds, top position at SEA Games

April 27, 2023 - 08:35
This marks a significant decrease from their impressive haul at the previous Games held in Hà Nội, but the athletes are determined to leave their mark on the competition.

SEA Games

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thủy celebrates her win in the women's 52kg class at the 31st SEA Games last May. Thủy will defend her title next month in Cambodia. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam's top judo fighters are setting their sights high as they prepare for the upcoming 32nd SEA Games, with a goal of capturing three gold medals.

This marks a significant decrease from their impressive haul at the previous Games held in Hà Nội, but the athletes are determined to leave their mark on the competition.

Cambodia, the host country, has organised 11 combat events, ten individual contests, one team event, and two kata performances.

"There are ten weight categories, but as regulated, we are allowed to participate in seven," said coach Nguyễn Duy Khanh. "Our coaching board has to select athletes carefully to make sure Việt Nam is in the leading group."

The national team has been training since early January to prepare for the regional Games.

They had a successful Southeast Asian championship with 29 gold medals to place first in the region. However, the participants were not the strongest athletes in their countries, so Vietnamese coaches were careful when setting a target of three golds.

Athletes also had a short training camp in Mongolia, their familiar destination, to improve their technique. Currently, the 18-strong contingent is in the southern Đồng Tháp Province, where the weather is similar to Phnom Penh.

"It is a necessary step for athletes," said coach Hoàng Nhất Thống. "They will become familiar with the hot and humid weather, so they will not be tired."

Fighters are training three times per day, focusing on their fitness and technique while maintaining themselves at peak under the support of German coach Christian Velici.

Nguyễn Hoàng Thành of Việt Nam (right) will arrive in Cambodia to defend his men's 55kg gold medal. — VNA/VNS Photo

According to Việt Nam Judo Federation President Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng, Việt Nam has a generation of experienced athletes such as Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thủy (women's 52kg), Hoàng Thị Tình (women's 48kg) and Nguyễn Hoàng Thành (men's 55kg).

In addition, the team are home to young talents, including Đặng Thanh Dương (men's 60kg), Nguyễn Thanh Hoàn (men's 66kg), Nguyễn Nhạc Như An (women's 44kg) and Lê Huỳnh Tường Vi (women's 70kg).

"I have been training hard for different important tournaments this year, including SEA Games," said three-time champion Thủy.

"My goal is to get the highest result which will push me to be successful at the Asian Games and look towards the Paris Olympics," said Thủy, who was Việt Nam's only judoka at the Tokyo Olympics.

"SEA Games is very close," said An, who will make her SEA Games debut this May. "We are in a rush, having almost no time to rest but keep training.

"I had not competed with any regional rival before but watched them through video. I look for their weak and strong points and then find a way to beat them. Like all athletes, I want to win and take gold, for me and for Việt Nam."

Also a SEA Games debuter, Vi said she was confident in her technique but was still nervous.

Coach Thống said: "My fighters are in good condition and ready for the Games. Among them, I believe that Thủy and Tình would take gold as they have been the most experienced members. Tình will compete in her third Games while Thủy in the fifth."

He said he hopes Vi can show off her ability in Cambodia to prove herself a core team member in further tournaments.

Imported athlete challenge

Việt Nam will also face naturalised athletes.

Cambodia has naturalised three Ukrainian athletes; at least two will compete at the May Games.

The name of the fighters have not been revealed, but it is said that one will take part in the men's 66kg class.

Philippine Judo Federation director Emir Reyes confirmed the news.

Reyes said that before the SEA Games judo tournament starts, they are trying to establish the identities of the Ukrainian judokas to find out if they had previously competed for their home country, in possible violation of international judo competition rules.

Shugen Nagano of the Philippines and Trương Hoàng Phúc of Việt Nam in the men's 66kg final. Naturalised Nagano won to take gold. — VNA/VNS Photo

Shugen Nagano, an athlete from Japan, will represent the Philippines. He was one of the country’s two gold medalists in the Việt Nam SEA Games. Nagano championed the men's 66kg class after beating Vietnamese Trương Hoàng Phúc.

Meanwhile, the other Filipino-Japanese Rena Furukawa ruled the women’s 57kg class. She will be the biggest obstacle of Nguyễn Thị Bích Ngọc of Việt Nam, who bagged a bronze last year.

Judo will be held from May 13-16 at the Choy Changvar International Convention and Exposition Centre in Phnom Penh. — VNS