The first reason is that organisers of the SEA Games have reduced the number ofevents from 14 to 12. The two events that are not held are the men’s andwomen’s individual all-round categories, which were dominated by Vietnameseathletes at the previous Games.
The second reason is the absence of “gymnastic queen” Phan Thi HaThanh, who retired last year. In Singapore, Thanh won three titles in thewomen’s individual all-round, vault and balance beam categories.
Following Thanh’s retirement, Vietnam’s women team have not found a strongathlete who can carry forward her task.
There are five female athletes competing at the SEA Games, but their chances ofwinning are uncertain.
“Following Thanh’s departure, only Truong Khanh Van, who is participating inthe balance beam and floor, and Nguyen Thi Huynh Nhu, a competitor in thevault, can be considered medal favourites. The others are still young and lackinternational experience, although in terms of technique they can beat the topthree,” coach Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy said.
“The women’s squad just participated in two local tournaments and I saw theirprogress, especially in terms of their mentality. Hopefully they can bring thatinto play in Malaysia. In my opinion, a berth in the top three is asuccess for us,” she added.
The gold medal target has been given to the men’s team.
“Compared with other teams in the region, Vietnam are the strongest. However,this year, countries have strongly supported their athletes, therefore, we willface challenges,” head coach Truong Tuan Hien said.
“The men’s crew just set a target of three goals; it will be a heavy-dutytournament for them. They have worked hard. It is difficult to say prior to theevents, but I believe they know how to overcome challenges to complete theirtask,” Hien said.
“We have powerful athletes such as Dinh Phuong Thanh, Bui Dang Nam,Pham Phuoc Hung and Le Thanh Tung. They can all take top positions,” he said.
In preparation for the Kuala Lumpur Games, the athletes enjoyed a three-weektraining course in Wuhan, China, in July.
“The course helped players improve their technique. Now they are excited andready for the Games,” coach Truong Minh Sang said.
Hanoian Dinh Phuong Thanh is the golden hope of the team. He was the firstVietnamese to win the SEA Games all-round title, apart from winning in theparallel, horizontal bars and team events.
Although the all-round category is not taking place this year, Thanh still hasother targets.
“I am confident about the parallel and horizontal bars. At present, myperformance on the pommel horse is also okay. I hope I can succeed in all threecategories,” Thanh, who won a bronze medal in the parallel event at the Asianchampionship in May, said.
The other hope is Le Thanh Tung, who has made remarkable progress in his careerat international competitions.
The SEA Games defending champion grabbed a gold medal in vault at the QatarWorld Cup in March and then went on to triumph at the Asian championship twomonths later in Thailand.
“Tung was born in 1995. He is one of the young and talented gymnasts of Vietnam.His success in Thailand was great and it would be strong push notonly for him, but also for Vietnam’s gymnastics at international tournaments,including the SEA Games,” coach Sang said.
Gymnast Dang Nam is competing in the rings event. He overcame teammate PhamPhuoc Hung and Weena Chokpaoumpai of Thailand to win two years agoin Singapore.
Nam, who also won at the Myanmar Games in 2013, is hoping to complete a hat-trickof gold at his third consecutive SEA Games next week.
Hung, who is the most experienced member of the team, will participate in fiveout of six individual events in Malaysia.
The two-time Olympian thinks this could be his last time at the SEA Games.
“I will try my best to get a high score, which would not only help me pocket myown medal, but also contribute to the team event,” Hung said during his lastdays of training in Hanoi.
Hung, who has won six SEA Games gold medals in his 20 years of competing,expects to top the podium at least once this August. At the last Games, heparticipated in five events and bagged one gold, two silver and two bronzemedals.
Thanh, Tung, Nam and Hung are also set to help their team winthe event title.
Gymnastics is organised on August 20-23 at the MiTEC Hall in Kuala Lumpur.-VNA
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