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Olympic hopes turn to taekwondo, weightlifting

Update: July, 03/2008 - 00:00

Olympic hopes turn to taekwondo, weightlifting

(04-07-2008)

HA NOI — Viet Nam is betting its hopes on weightlifting and taekwondo in the Beijing Olympics next month, said vice chairman and general secretary Hoang Vinh Giang.

Viet Nam will be represented by 22 athletes in taekwondo, table tennis, athletics, shooting, badminton, weightlifting, gymnastics and wushu at the world’s biggest sporting event in Beijing.

"We have our eyes on taekwondo. Three of our athletes clinched automatic berths to Beijing in taekwondo and I hope they are able to win bronzes in the Olympics even though they have to wait for the final draw in their categories," Giang said.

Taekwondo athletes Hoang Ha Giang, Nguyen Van Hung and Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu clinched their berths at the Olympics along with Doan Kien Quoc in table tennis, Nguyen Tien Minh in badminton and Nguyen Manh Tuong in shooting.

The wushu eight-member squad will participate in their first ever Olympics as part of a demonstration.

"I was impressed by badminton top player Nguyen Tien Minh who has worked hard to get to his ranking of 26 from 50 a few years ago. This enabled him to get an automatic pass for the Beijing Games. It’s an honour for Viet Nam’s badminton," Giang added.

"However, I am disappointed that athletes in events like fencing, rowing, wrestling, canoeing and judo did not qualify for Beijing," the general secretary said.

Viet Nam’s hopes of claiming victory in weightlifting at this year’s Olympics rests on the shoulders of Hoang Anh Tuan and Nguyen Thi Thiet.

Tuan who won a silver medal –Viet Nam’s first medal at the Doha Asian Games in Qatar in 2006 – in the men’s 56kg weight class finished behind the top 29 competitors who qualified for the Olympic Games at the World Weightlifting Championships last year in Chiang Mai with his total lift of 279kg.

The northern Bac Ninh-born maintains his form by training in Ha Noi, lifting a total of 285kg, which is what he hopes will secure him a victory in Beijing.

Another hopeful is the country’s top female weightlifter Nguyen Thi Thiet, who competed at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics where she lifted 210kg. She won a bronze medal at the Asian Championships where she upped her record in Athens and lifted 233kg.

Four years ago, Thiet and teammate Nguyen Thi Bich Loan were the first Vietnamese weightlifters – men or women – to take part in the Olympics.

In a special meeting of the Viet Nam Olympic Committee (VOC) in 2006, the 91 member team of the committee discussed ways of raising the number of athletes representing Viet Nam in Beijing to around 20 competing athletes, up from the 11 that competed in Athens in 2004.

Viet Nam has set a target of winning at least three medals at this year’s Olympics.

The VOC was established in 1976 and made its Olympic debut in the 1980 Moscow Games, but the country had to wait 20 long years for their first Olympic medal, a silver won by taekwondo fighter Tran Hieu Ngan, in the women’s 57kg weight category.

The Athens Olympics, where Viet Nam sent a small team of 11 athletes, failed to see any of its members reach the podium in any of the sporting events they competed in, which included shooting, canoeing, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and athletics. — VNS

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