|Man of the moment: GM Le Quang Liem plays against 20 players as a warm-up activity ahead of the HDBank Cup in HCM City. Liem is one among 100 athletes representing Viet Nam at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. — Photo voc.org.vn
HA NOI (VNS)— Viet Nam's sporting elite will leave the country on June 25 for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, being held in South Korea, hoping to win at least nine gold medals.
The 100-strong team will compete in 11 of the 12 sports taking place in Incheon City between June 29 and July 6.
Out of all the different events, Viet Nam's officials believe the team will collect most of the golds from the chess events.
The country's top competitor is International Grandmaster Le Quang Liem, the current world blitz chess champion. He will compete in three different events including the men's individual classical chess, team blitz chess and rapid chess.
Another contender for gold is former under-10 champion Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, who was ranked fifth in the world blitz chess championship earlier this month in Russia.
A slim opportunity
Viet Nam are seen as leading competitors at the event but many commentators say that it is still not easy to win a gold medal at chess.
Dang Tat Thang, Deputy Chairman of the Viet Nam Chess Federation, said: "In Asia, Viet Nam ranks as high as India and China in the men's events however the women have a bit of catching up to do.
"Despite winning gold in the blitz chess event, Liem remains No 3 seed in Asia, and the 22-year-old master faces a number of unknown challenges ahead," said Thang.
Liem is one of the medal hopefulls, however, he has never won an Asian trophy. His best performance so far was a silver medal in the Asian Games three years ago.
"We have to prepare our masters carefully, step by step, while keeping an eye on our rivals. Liem is a very powerful player but has been unlucky in Asian events," Thang said.
China and India are Viet Nam's biggest rivals and both could sweep the board at the tournament. In the men's events are Wang Hao and Wang Yue (China), Sasikiran Krishnan, Negi Parimarjan and Ganguly Surya Shekhar (India). In the women's events the biggest threats are Hou Yifan from China and Indian Koneru Humpy.
Viet Nam team are still studying the tactics their rivals use while waiting for the match draws to be revealed by the organisers before they choose tactics. The schedule will be released in plenty of time, ahead of the match days.
Viet Nam are reputedly strong in rapid and blitz chess, which requires quick reactions, so Thang hopes "Viet Nam could prove to be something special in the individual chess events".
The matches will be held at Yonsei University International Campus during the eight day games.
In swimming, Nguyen Thi Anh Vien will lead the assault on the medals table.
The 17-year-old athlete who successfully earned a place at the world championships in Spain next month, is expected to shine in the women's 200m backstroke.
At the recent ASEAN tournament for junior swimmers Vien pocketed 11 gold medals, setting seven tournament records and one Southeast Asian Games record.
Her teammates Nguyen Thi Kim Tuyen and Hoang Quy Phuoc are also expected to do well in the competition.
In kurash, Van Ngoc Tu is ready to defend her title in the women's under-52kg category.
Tu mainly competes at judo but also does kurash as the two sports employ many similar techniques and rules. She made her debut at the previous Games, winning a gold medal.
This time her strongest rivals are from the Chinese mainland, Taipei and Kazakhstan.
Muay fighter Nguyen Tran Duy Nhat, the World and Asian semi-pro champion, will carry the flag in the men's U60kg.
The dance sport team will also try to retain the golds won by Khanh Thi and Minh Truong in the jive and rumba dances at the previous games.
When hosting the Asian Indoor Games four years ago Viet Nam ended up third with 21 gold, 16 silver and 21 bronze medals.
While at the first Asian Martial Arts Games in Thailand later the same year, Viet Nam came sixth, earning seven golds, 11 silvers, 21 bronzes.
This year, the two Games have been merged into one with the new name, the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. — VNS