HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam will aim for top spot in taekwondo at the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hà Nội this May.
There are 13 weight categories organised in the kyorugi (combat) disciplines and six in poomsae (performance).
National head coach Vũ Anh Tuấn said 19 kyorugi athletes are working hard at the National Sport Training No 1 to overcome Thailand and the Philippines who they lost too in the previous Games.
Việt Nam won three golds in kyorugi and two in poomsae to place third three years ago in Manila. In 2019, they grabbed one in each discipline to also finish third in the Kuala Lumpur event.
“We have set a target of at least five golds (in kyorugi) so that we can vie for the top place overall,” said coach Tuấn.
“Our main rivals will be fighters from Thailand and the Philippines.
“My athletes have been training intensively for a year as we prepared for different international competitions including the SEA Games.
“Good news is that my senior athletes like defending champions Bạc Thị Khiêm (women’s 67kg), Trần Thị Ánh Tuyết (women’s 53kg), and Asian winner Trương Thị Kim Tuyền (women’s 49kg) are in good form. Another reigning champion Phạm Thị Thu Hiền (women’s 62kg) returns to compete after maternity leave.
“At the 30th Games, we did not earn any gold in the men’s class. This year, hope to change that. My title hopes are Lý Hồng Phúc (67kg) and Phạm Đăng Quang (58kg). I am confident about athletes like Phạm Ngọc Châm (women’s 55kg) and Hoàng Đức Anh (men’s 45kg).”
Tuyết and Tuyền are the strong hopefuls for gold in the combat event.
Tuyết won a silver medal from the Asian championship last June in Lebanon.
Meanwhile talented fighter Tuyền is tipped to take a gold again in her return to this year Games. Tuyền won the title in 2015 and a silver 2017 Games. She withdrew from the 2019 edition to focus on the Tokyo Olympics.
She was expected to be in top three in Tokyo but was unsuccessful due in part to poor physical condition. For months, she has been training with South Korean Kim Woo-nam to improve her weakness.
“I have better physique since working with coach Kim. It will help me to achieve my target of a gold medal,” said Tuyền.
The 25-year-old and her teammates just completed a one-month training course in South Korea, which according to coach Tuấn, was a good chance for his athletes to sharpen their skills and fix their mistakes.
“We have prepared pretty well. Competing at home is also our big advantage. I believe that we will complete our target,” said Tuấn.
Meanwhile the poomsae team which is under coach Nguyễn Thanh Huy is training in HCM City for their goal of three gold medals.
Huy said: “It is no doubt that we are among top two teams in the world in freestyle poomsae but at this Games, there is only one freestyle class organised, the rest are of recognised poomsae which is not our strong point.”
Huy said he is confident about the women’s quartet recognised poomsae but other categories will be difficult to win.
“We are freestyle artists,” said Nguyễn Đình Khôi, who will compete in the men’s individual recognised.
“We meet with little challenge when performing in the recognised event which requires perfectly technical moves. But I am gradually getting more familiar with the change and I will try my best.”
Coach Huy said two other golds are hoped for in the women’s individual recognised and mixed freestyle team who are the world champions. However, his athletes have the potential to win other classes too.
The combat and performance teams will take part in the Southeast Asian championship on April 1-3 in HCM City, which is the final warm-up and also a pre-SEA Games tournament for the real event six weeks later.
Taekwondo will see almost 300 participants of 10 delegations as well as 35 international referees. They will compete at the Tây Hồ District Gymnasium from May 16-19. — VNS