|Lâm Quang Nhật will defend his title in the men’s 1,500m freestyle. — File Photo|
HÀ NỘI — The national swimming team will shoulder the responsibility of winning one-sixth of Việt Nam’s total target of 60 gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).
Việt Nam are ready for the competition and will enter 25 swimmers to compete in all 38 swimming disciplines, a record number of competitors.
Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên is the country’s main swimming hope, as she is the defending champion in eight categories and holds eight records in the 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle, 800m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m breaststroke and 200m backstroke.
During the Games, Viên will compete in 12 events and is expected to win at least 10 of them, the same number won by Vietnamese swimmers in the SEA Games in Singapore two years ago.
Two other events that Viên could win are the 100m freestyle, where she won a silver medal in last SEA Games, and the 50m backstroke where she earned a bronze medal in 2015.
“I am familiar with the pressure of competition. I feel free, and will try my best to win as many medals as possible,” said Viên.
“Recently, her training has placed her in the top position in Asia. I think this is a positive result, after an intensive training regime,” said the national head coach, Đặng Anh Tuấn.
“Therefore, there is no reason to prevent us from setting a higher target for her in the Malaysian Games. She is now closer to continental and world-class levels,” he added, with regards to his swimmer who had won two silver medals in the Arena Pro Swim Series 2017 in Atlanta in June, in the women’s 400m individual medley and 1,500m freestyle, even though she was not at her best at that time.
“I believe in her, but we must keep our eyes on our rivals. Swimmers like Quah Ting Wen from Singapore, Khoo Cai Lin and Lim Xiang from Malaysia, and Natthanan Junkrajang from Thailand are improving rapidly,” Tuấn further added.
While the 20-year old Viên is the only athlete who can win in the women’s categories, Việt Nam also hopes to win titles through several of its male swimmers.
|Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên is expected to win in 10 events in SEA Games. — Photo baodongnai.vn|
Hoàng Quý Phước will defend his 200m freestyle title while Lâm Quang Nhật is the favourite in the 1,500m freestyle event.
Phước will be the first Vietnamese swimmer who could win gold medals in four consecutive SEA Games, if he can win this August.
He is also one of the swimmers who has received considerable support from the government, to compete in international competitions. He is currently taking part in a long-term training camp in Hungary, and he recently won a gold medal in the men’s 100m freestyle at an open tournament in Stockholm, Sweden.
Nhật finished his training in Thailand and China last week with positive results, and his coaches believe that he is strong enough to win again.
He will swim in his preferred category with teammate Nguyễn Huy Hoàng, the winner of the national tournament with a time of 15:30.11, which is faster than the SEA Games record of 15:31.03 that Nhật set in Singapore in 2015.
Another medallist from Việt Nam is Trần Duy Khôi, who bagged a silver medal in the 200m backstroke and two bronze medals in the 100m backstroke and the 400m individual medley.
Vietnamese-American Lê Nguyễn Paul has worn the Việt Nam national jersey in several tournaments, but it will be his first time to compete in the SEA Games in the men’s backstroke and butterfly events. He is the national champion in the 50m backstroke, 50m butterfly and 100m breaststroke.
“We have made careful preparations for the Games. Apart from key athletes such as Viên, Phước and Nhật, there are also young athletes who will be our stars in the near future,” said the head of the Elite Sports Department of the National Sports Administration, Nguyễn Trọng Hổ.
“We aim to win 10 events, but in fact, we can win 12, because our youngsters could shine in Kuala Lumpur,” he added.
The young swimmers who will make their SEA Games debuts are Vũ Thị Phương Anh, Trần Ngọc Thi and Nguyễn Hữu Kim Sơn. — AFP