HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam’s fencers are going for gold in a big way at the SEA Games, aiming for three top medals overall.
In the past, fencing was one of the country’s top sports at the Games. In 2015, athletes picked up eight medals out of the 12 on offer.
But at the following games in 2017 they only managed three out of six and in 2019, they lost their top spot winning just four out of 12.
Rival teams in Singapore and Thailand improved, and in some categories overtook Việt Nam. This year will see 12 fencing events, split evenly between individual and team categories.
Việt Nam will send 24 athletes, who have been training since January in Hà Nội and HCM City, to compete in all competitions. And the hosts’ golden hopes put on veterans Vũ Thành An (men’s sabre) and Nguyễn Tiến Nhật (men’s epee).
Other potential champions will be Nguyễn Minh Quang (men’s foil), Vũ Thị Hồng (women’s epee) and Phùng Thị Khánh Linh (women’s sabre) who have had remarkable results in local tournaments.
“We have not had any intensive training camps and competitions in the last two years because of the COVID-19, but my teammates and I still work hard, sharpening our technique and improving our fitness for the SEA Games,” Rio Olympic participant An told Việt Nam News.
“I will do my best and will get highest results at the special Games on home soil,” said the five-time SEA Games winner.
Apart from his effort to defend his individual title, An will join with Nguyễn Xuân Lợi, Tô Đức Anh and Nguyễn Văn Quyết to maintain their top position in the team event.
His teammate Nguyễn Thị Kiều Oanh (women’s epee) also showed her determination for her first SEA Games.
“We are practising really hard,” said the 18-year-old. “It is urgent now. Although rivals will be strong but we are confident.”.
Meanwhile, newbie Phạm Đức Trọng said he worked with more than 200 per cent of his ability for months. He wished in his first SEA Games, he would either learn as much as possible or winning his best personal result.
Head coach Phạm Anh Tuấn said the fencing team has struggled financially and had to make do without the best equipment and protective clothing.
And like many others, they also suffered from the COVID-19 which prevented them from going abroad for training despite planning to do so.
Instead, they organised internal competitions and invited some retired athletes to be their competing partners. Coaches also join in matches to help athletes to strengthen their abilities.
“At this point, I believe that our difficulties are behind us,” said head coach Phạm Anh Tuấn.
“We do not think about our logistic shortage any more, but focus on training and will use our experience together with suitable tactics for good results.
Phùng Lê Quang, head of Fencing Department of the Việt Nam Sports Administration, added: “My players are in highly focussed for the SEA Games. This spirit must be maintained until SEA Games. And we will wait for their great efforts in May.”
Fencing will be held at the Hà Nội’s Indoor Athletics Palace from May 13-18. Admission is free for all supporters who must follow COVID-19 prevention and control regulations. — VNS