HCM CITY — Viet Nam stands a good opportunity to improve its record haul of 33 medals four years ago as the team prepares to take part in the continent’s biggest sporting event, the Asian Games, which officially opened yesterday with a dazzling opening ceremony in Incheon, South Korea.
Viet Nam is sending a lesser contingent of 199 athletes (the country sent 260 athletes in 2010) to compete in only 21 sports instead of 26 sports four years ago in China’s Guangzhou, but the country is expected to outdo its performance, at least in terms of gold medals.
Viet Nam News takes a look at which athletes are likely to add to the country’s medal tally over the next two weeks.
The highest hope for gold medals lies in swimming with female star Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, who has won numerous medals in swimming competitions at all levels except for the Asian Games and Olympic Games.
The Asian Games in Incheon will be an excellent occasion for the 17-year-old to make history by becoming the first Vietnamese swimmer to win a medal in the history of the event.
Last month, Vien was the first Vietnamese to win a gold medal at the Summer Youth Olympics, which took place in Nanjing, China.
Vien finished her favourite 200m individual medley event at Nanjing with a time of 2:12.66, faster than the bronze medallist at the 2010 Asian Games.
Vien, who has won five gold medals at a single Southeast Asian Swimming Championships, is also a medal candidate in the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly events.
Track and field events also offer gold medal hopes with stars Vu Thi Huong, who won a silver and a bronze four years ago in Guangzhou.
Huong will compete in her favourite events, the women’s 100m and 200m races, and is considered to be a serious contender for a place on the podium. She is expected to fully recover from back and leg injuries before her competitions.
Hoang Xuan Vinh, who won gold medals at the World Shooting Championship and the Asian Shooting Championship, and Ha Minh Thanh, who won a silver medal in Guangzhou, provide another hope for a gold in shooting. Four years ago, Viet Nam brought home two silvers and one bronze.
The martial arts events contributed the lion share of the medal collection, with 15 out of 33 medals in the last edition won by martial artists. Le Bich Phuong won the only gold in karate.
As Phuong could not make it to Incheon, former world champion Nguyen Hoang Ngan will have to bear the burden of winning a spot on the podium.
In wushu, silver medalist Nguyen Thanh Tung is expected to jump from silver to gold this time, while taekwondo will pin its hopes on Doan Thi Huong Giang, Pham Thi Thu Hien and Le Huynh Chau.
Weightlifting is one of Viet Nam’s most successful sports and became even more well-known after weightlifter Hoang Anh Tuan won a silver in the men’s 56kg category in the Summer Olympics 2008.
Tuan, however, could not repeat that victory at the Asian Games two years later. But the country has a good chance this time to end its poor run at the Games by clinching medals in Incheon.
Thach Kim Tuan, who is also competing in the men’s 56kg event, has a chance of repeating his performance at the Junior World Weightlifting Championships in Russia, where he won three golds and set two Games records, with a total lift of 293kg. The possibility of winning gold is very high.
Wrestling, rowing, chess, sepaktakraw and cue sports are also expected to increase the country’s medal tally to more than 33 medals.