HÀ NỘI — The national karate team will take part in the Southeast Asian championship, a key warm-up tournament to prepare for the Southeast Asian Games in Việt Nam in May.
A team of 19 athletes will compete in the event from March 21 to 27 at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Seven other countries, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, will be represented in the tournament, along with the hosts.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), said it will be one of the major pre-SEA Games events.
The championship will be the biggest and the first international karate-related event in the Kingdom for a number of years.
Vũ Sơn Hà, head of the Karate Department of the Việt Nam Sports Administration, said: “Our strongest athletes will compete at the regional competition in Cambodia this month. It will be our final test prior to the 31st Games. The participants are our SEA Games title favourites.”
Among them are defending champion Nguyễn Thanh Duy, silver medallists Đỗ Thành Nhân and Đinh Thị Hương, and bronze medal holders Nguyễn Thị Phương, Đặng Hồng Sơn, Hồ Thị Thu Hiền and Trang Cẩm Lành, and former Karate1-Premier League champion Nguyễn Thị Ngoan.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the team from taking part in intensive training and quality competitions.
The team missed chance to win a place at the Tokyo Olympics as they could not find a flight to compete at any of the qualification rounds.
However, at the Asian championship last December in Kazakhstan, Hoàng Thị Mỹ Tâm won a record three golds for Việt Nam.
The 18-year-old fighter is tipped to get top results in future tournaments including the SEA Games.
“All teams will prepare very well in this regional championship. My athletes are asked to train hard and strictly follow the coaching board’s tactics,” Hà said.
Local coaches take lead
Local coaches are understood to play a major role for the national team at the Hà Nội Games this summer.
Lê Tùng Dương will be head coach. He will be assisted by Dương Hoàng Long and Nguyễn Văn Sử in kumite (combat) and Lê Tiến Nguyện and Nguyễn Hoàng Ngân in kata (performance).
“Vietnamese coaches are doing good job,” Hà said.
“We will improve the quality of our team through international training courses and competitions. Athletes will sharpen their skills through really competitive combat where they have chances to approach new karate techniques.”
He said that three gold medals from the recent Asian championship made karate officials believe in the ability of local coaches. These results were much better than the period that foreign coaches came to train the team some years ago.
“We believe that the current coaches will continue helping Việt Nam karate to get good results at the SEA Games,” Hà said.
Head coach Dương also confirmed that his fighters are in high alert ahead of the SEA Games. All are confident and can’t wait to fight at the Games although they are warned to face with strong and experienced rivals.
“Due to the lack of competition so we can’t evaluate arch-rivals such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. It will be biggest challenge to both coaches and athletes of Việt Nam,” Dương said.
“Therefore, we have to train and compete with 100 per cent focus to make sure we achieve the best possible results.”
Karate competition will be held in Ninh Bình Province from May 16-20. There will have 15 events including seven for men and eight for women.
Việt Nam aims to win between four and five gold medals which will make them top-three team on home soil competition. It would be twice as many as they won in the Philippines three years ago.
In Manila in 2019, Vietnamese athletes pocketed two golds, three silvers and six bronzes. — VNS