Vietnam’s top fencers are set to compete in the Seoul Grand Prix from April 27-29, hoping to earn crucial points for their Paris Olympics campaign and prepare for the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia.
Representing Vietnam in the men’s saber category are Vu Thanh An and Nguyen Van Quyet, while Bui Thi Thu Ha, Pham Thi Thu Hoai, and Phung Thi Khanh Linh will compete in the women’s class.
The team faces a tough challenge as they go up against some of the world’s strongest fencers in Seoul.
An, the Southeast Asian No. 1, is ranked 224th in the world, while Quyet is ranked 174th.
They will face world’s No. 1 Sandro Bazadze of Georgia, No. 2 Aron Szilagyi of Hungary, and No. 3 Bolade Apithy from France.
The women’s team faces an even greater challenge, with Linh ranked 271st, Hoai ranked 375th, and Ha not yet ranked.
They will be up against world’s top three fencers Misaki Emura of Japan, Despina Georgiadou of Greece, and Anna Bashta of Azerbaijan.
Although none of the Vietnamese fencers advanced to the top 10 at the Italian Grand Prix in February, the team remains determined to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Vietnam’s plan includes international training courses and tournaments to help athletes like An earn enough points for their world ranking to qualify for the Paris event.
SEA Games approaching
After Seoul, the fencers will return home and join their teammates for final preparation before leaving for Phnom Penh for the 32nd SEA Games.
Fencing will be held from May 11-16 at the Chroy Changvar International Convention and Exhibition Center.
At SEA Games 31 last May, Vietnam won five golds, one silver and five bronzes, placing second in the medal tally.
Among the winners, An and Ha won two golds each in both individual and team disciplines. The others went to Nguyen Tien Nhat in the individual épée.
“It has been almost a year,” said head coach Nguyen Tien Viet. “Many things have changed. All participating teams such as Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, and notably the hosts, have prepared really well and are thirsty for gold.”
“Among 12 sets of medals, we expect to win three to four. No specific athlete is targeted for gold, but all are asked to try their best for this task.”
However, An and his saber teammates are still the top title favorites in their classes, as they have dominated at the SEA Games for years. An won four individual golds in a row, and the teammate took golds in two recent Games.
Nhat is also a highlight of the team as he has won five SEA Games titles since 2015 in both individual and team categories of épée.
On the women’s side, Ha and her teammates are determined to top the podiums again.
“Singapore and Thailand are growing strongly,” said Ha. “They have young and talented athletes who regularly own good speed and technique after intensive training. Meanwhile, Cambodia pays all attention to saber, so they are also potential.”
“Pressure on us is high, but we will make it a strong push. We will also learn to keep our minds stable and be brave during competitions. We will bring the victory home.”
Meanwhile, rising star Linh said it was her third Games and she would do best for the title.
“I met with psychological problems and cramps, so I couldn’t show my full potential. This time in Cambodia, my teammates and I had to defend our two titles. We know winning is hard, but keeping it is much more difficult. We will face really strong rivals, but we will work hard to maintain as the best saber team in the region,” Linh said.
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