Trương Thị Kim Tuyền of Việt Nam (left) competes in the Asian Championship in 2018. Tuyền is expected to secure an Olympic slot at the coming qualification tournament in Jordan. — Photo hcmcpv.org.vn
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam’s taekwondo fighters are aiming for at least one slot at the coming Olympics in Tokyo.
They will leave Việt Nam on Thursday for intensive training courses in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan before competing in the 2021 Asian Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan, in May, and the 24th Asian Taekwondo Championship in Lebanon in June.
Việt Nam won its first Olympic medal in any sport at the 2000 Sydney Games when Trần Hiếu Ngân won silver in taekwondo.
Before her, Trần Quang Hạ and Hồ Nhất Thống triumphed at the Asian Games in 1994 and 1998, respectively.
Despite this history of success in the sport, no Vietnamese representative qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. Officials have admitted that a shortage of investment has led to a dip in quality among local athletes.
In recent times, Vietnamese fighters have been eliminated from the early rounds of large events such as the Asian Games, Asian and world championships.
However, a good result at the Southeast Asian Games in 2019 has created some optimism. The team pocketed five titles, five times more than what they targeted in Manila.
“The calendar for Olympic qualifying tournaments has been revealed. We will have about 80 days for training and competing for our target of at least one slot,” said head coach Vũ Anh Tuấn.
“Our hopes rest on athletes Trương Thị Kim Tuyền in the 49kg and Trần Thị Ánh Tuyết in the 57kg categories in the women’s side and Phạm Đăng Quang in the 58kg and Lý Hồng Phúc in the 68kg pool in the men’s.
“Our athletes have received COVID-19 vaccine shots recently and are in good conditions. They are ready for the journey,” Tuấn said.
At the qualifier event, each category will see 16 athletes competing and only the two finalists will advance to the Tokyo competition.
Among all the athletes, Tuyền has the best shot at becoming an Olympian.
The 24-year-old won a gold medal at the world junior championship in 2016, a silver at the 2017 world championship and a title at the Asian championship a year later.
The silver was Việt Nam’s best ever result in a world tournament.
In late 2019, she won two golds from open tournaments in Serbia and Greece to rise to No 10 in the world rankings.
“It is a tough job. Only the two best fighters will win slots instead of four previously. So we have to try really really hard. I will do my best and hope that luck will stand by my side,” Tuyền said at a recent press briefing in Hà Nội. VNS