Leaving a hugely disappointing result at the previous SEA Games behind, Vietnamese markspeople are planning to bounce back to dominate this year’s tournament.
The 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games saw Việt Nam placed low on the gold medal list for shooting for the first time. In five Olympic shooting categories organised in Manila, Việt Nam secured only one gold and one silver.
The result made Việt Nam the worst team, even though it is home to Olympic 10m pistol champion Hoàng Xuân Vinh.
This year the team competing on home turf will try to get back in the top tier. They have set a target of five golds and be in the top three of the ranking table.
“We expect to win at least five gold medals this Games. Competing on home ground will be a great advantage. I believe that we have a chance in all events,” national head coach Nguyễn Thị Nhung told Việt Nam News.
“Our athletes with the most potential are in the pistol team. But we also expect to win a gold in the rifle event, which has never been Việt Nam’s strong point,” she said.
This year, Việt Nam’s Olympic medallist Vinh will not compete as he moves to work as a coach.
The medal hopes are Hà Minh Thành, Phạm Quang Huy, Phan Công Minh, Nguyễn Xuân Chuyên and Nguyễn Đình Thành (men’s pistol) and Nguyễn Thu Vinh (women’s pistol), and Phí Thu Thảo and Nguyễn Thu Trang (women’s rifle). They just completed a two-month training course in South Korea.
Veteran marksmen Trần Quốc Cường, who won a 10m pistol bronze in the last Games, and Đặng Hồng Hà, who won four Asian Games mobile rifle medals, are threats for top places.
Other potential athletes are Bùi Thúy Thu Thủy and Lê Thị Mộng Tuyền, who grabbed records at youth and club tournaments recently.
The team is now preparing for the pre-SEA Games event early next month and the World Cup event in China some days later. These will be their final test before the SEA Games in May.
Dream comes true
Coach Park Chung-gun and his athletes could not believe in their eyes seeing the new and advanced shooting range at Hà Nội’s National Sports Training Centre 1.
Just two months away from a training course in South Korea, they returned home to see the poor condition and degraded facility had been converted into an international-standard range. It blew their minds.
“We were all excited to practise at the new centre,” said South Korean Park, who came to Việt Nam in 2015 and saw one of Southeast Asia’s oldest and most outdated shooting ranges.
It was a challenging task for both Park and his athletes because they had to practise with paper targets while electronic targets were used in international competition.
“It was pretty difficult, but my athletes like Vinh and Cường did a great job, overcoming challenges to grab high results,” he said.
“It is over now. Our shooting range is totally upgraded. It is most beautiful and advanced in the region.”
Coach Vinh said that in his 23 years of practising and competing, he always dreamed of the day to see such a high-quality centre in Việt Nam.
He hopes that now Việt Nam has caught up with the world in terms of technology, his athletes will quickly achieve higher results internationally.
“Technically, our venue is at the international level because all equipment and machines are the latest versions of SIUS, the only brand recognised by the world shooting federation in their competition system,” said coach Nhung.
“In the past, we had to send our athletes abroad to practise, but now they can train with the best facility at home. Undoubtedly, our athletes will improve their skills, and Việt Nam shooting will be strongly lifted.
“I can say that a dream of many generations of markspeople has come true. With such an advanced shooting range, we are proud to welcome international friends to compete at the coming SEA Games and other international events.”
SEA Games’ chief-de-missions and representatives of the Asian Shooting Federation made an inspection tour to Việt Nam’s competition venue last week and were pleased with the quality of the new range.
Almost 300 athletes from nine countries will compete in shooting for 22 sets of medals at the SEA Games.
Việt Nam will send a team of 28, competing in all categories.
“We will have to vie for medals against Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Indonesia is also a force, raising their game strongly and targeting the top three,” said Nhung.
“We aim to win at least five golds, but if we can grab one-third of the total titles available, we will jump to the top.” — VNS