Vietnamese athletes compete at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in India. They win silver in the men's 10m air pistal team. Photo issf-sports.org
HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese shooters won a silver medal at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup but failed to secure an Olympic slot.
The Vietnamese trio placed second in the men’s team 10m air pistol after losing 17-11 to the hosts India in the final in New Delhi on Sunday.
It was the first international medal for Việt Nam in 2021 but not enough for them to win qualification for the Tokyo Games this summer.
Earlier, in the individual competition, the nation's top hope Trần Quốc Cường could not qualify for the final round.
Competing under heavy pressure the 47-year-old struggled to shoot his best, earning only 569 points and ranking 16 among 26 participants.
His failure to place among the top eight in the final meant Cường could not improve his world ranking from No 17 to No 16 to qualify for the Olympics.
It also meant that Việt Nam will not defend the Olympic title Hoàng Xuân Vinh grabbed in Brazil five years ago.
Vinh withdrew from the tournament as the world No 25 has struggled in recent years.
“No representative at the Olympics is sad news for us but Cường tried his best,” said Nguyễn Thị Nhung, national team head coach.
“We had a year of training locally and no international tournament. It strongly affects athletes’ mentality and status during their competition, causing poor results.
“Cường shot worse than he could usually because of high pressure. Not only Vietnamese but also world athletes, the closer they get to their target, the heavier pressure they suffer, especially in decisive tournaments or matches,” she said.
Cường said he regretted that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the World Cup to be delayed until this month and felt he would have performed better if it had been held last May as planned due to his careful preparation at a training camp in South Korea.
Nhung, who is also vice president of the Việt Nam Shooting Federation (VFS), said as her best athletes of Vinh and Cường failed to bring home victories, it is time to focus on young talents at the 31st SEA Games on home turf later this year.
Vinh has decided to retire while Cường is unsure if he will enter the tournament, putting their young teammates in charge of winning at least six gold medals in the total 22 events to be held in Hà Nội.
Shooting has, for a long time, a gold mine for Việt Nam in the SEA Games with the most successful tournament the 25th edition in 2009 in Laos with 11 titles.
However, in the two last events, they took poor results with one gold in 2017 and zero in 2019 when veteran marksmen like Vinh and Cường were not at their peak.
At the coming Games, the federation has high hopes for rising stars such as Lê Thị Mộng Tuyền, Nguyễn Thị Thảo, Nguyễn Thu Trang, Bùi Thúy Thu Thủy, and Iwaki Ai.
“The young athletes could make a big jump in career. What they need is to take part in as many tournaments as possible to improve their skills,” said Nhung.
According to coach Phạm Cao Sơn, these athletes have potential and if they receive support can go much further than their senior teammates.
“In this situation of COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to send athletes to training courses and competitions abroad. Then, domestic events are key. It is the most helpful way to keep shooters in the ‘ready’ mode ahead of the SEA Games,” Sơn said.
“For many years, Việt Nam and Thailand would share half of the total golds available in shooting. It means that if we could earn six golds in 22 this year, we would take the top position in the overall ranking,” said Nhung.
“I believe that our athletes, who are growing up strongly, can make up an impressive result. They are also our keys at the Asian Games and Olympics.”
Apart from improving technique, athletes will be also trained to have iron minds, which is a decisive element in shooting.
“Mentality is the most important thing. But it can be only trained through tournaments. The more events you take part in the more stable mind you will get,” said shooter Thủy of Hà Nội.
President of the VSF Đỗ Văn Bình said the federation is mobilising financial support from enterprises and organisations for more local competitions and to send athletes abroad for training and competitions. VNS