With advantages in various disciplines, athletics is considered a “gold mine” for the country’s sports delegation. The Vietnamese track and field athletes are aiming for 15-17 gold medals and retain the top position at the SEA Games 31.

 Athlete Nguyen Thi Oanh is a great hope for Vietnamese athletics at SEA Games 31. Photo: Ngoc Tu

Defending their throne

Athletic competitions at the Games will take place at My Dinh National Stadium from May 14 to 19, with 47 sets of medals. To be best-prepared for the event at home, the Vietnam national athletics team has been training for months now at five national sports training centers across the country. A national squad of 90 members to attend the Games – the largest among the Vietnamese sports delegation has also been drawn up months in advance.

For many years, Vietnamese track and field have always been the number one in Southeast Asia. At the 29th SEA Games in Malaysia in 2017, the national team won 17 golds (out of 46 in the sport), 11 silvers and 6 bronzes to rank first, becoming the largest gold winner of the country’s delegation. 

Similarly, at the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines in 2019, the team collected 16 golds, 12 silvers and 10 bronzes, thereby maintaining the top position far ahead of Thailand (12 golds) and the Philippines (11 golds), while continuing to contribute the most gold medals to the delegation.

At the upcoming SEA Games this May, the target of the Vietnam track and field team is 15-17 gold medals. According to experts, this goal is absolutely feasible, or could even be overachieved.

However, national team coach Nguyen Manh Hieu said that despite playing on the home turf with clear goals, remaining the number one in Southeast Asia is a very challenging task, as Thailand and the Philippines are strengthening their squads with naturalized athletes.

Young athlete Tran Van Dang is trusted in the categories of men’s 800m and 1,500m. Photo: Ngoc Tu.

“At this time, the athletes will have to strive and struggle. The coaching staff expects all of them to achieve the best results and excel themselves. In the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the team’s preparation,  as many international tournaments have been postponed or canceled.

In addition, nearly all athletes have contracted Covid-19, which damaged their fitness and interrupted the training process, requiring double striving from the coaching staff to help them recover to their best condition.

Vietnamese athletics will find it difficult to win in men’s categories such as the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m, because Thailand and the Philippines are having many strong naturalized athletes,” coach Hieu emphasized.

New hopes

Besides the ‘golden hopefuls’ who have made their names, such as Le Tu Chinh, Quach Cong Lich, Quach Thi Lan, Pham Thi Thu Trang, Nguyen Thi Oanh, Nguyen Thi Huyen, Pham Thi Hue, Khuat Phuong Anh, Dinh Thi Bich, Pham Thi Hong Le among others, Vietnamese track and field has welcomed back long jumper Bui Thi Thu Thao, as well as other youthful, impressive faces waiting to shine on the home turf like Tran Van Dang (men’s 800m and 1,500m), Le Tien Long (men’s 3,000m steeplechase), Nguyen Tien Trong (long jump), Ngan Ngoc Nghia (sprint), Tran Nhat Hoang (men’s 400m and 4x400m relay, and mixed 4x400m relay), and so on.

The Vietnam national track and field team is aiming to win 15-17 gold medals at SEA Games 31. Photo: Ngoc Tu

“Every young athlete is determined to win, especially the fact that SEA Games 31 are held at home generates a strong motivation for athletes to bring glory to the country. Being able to compete on the home turf is both an inspiration and a pressure for each of us, but a professional athlete needs to get rid of the negatives, maintain a strong mentality to aim for the highest position,” athlete Tran Van Dang shared.

In two days from April 25 to 26, the Pre-SEA Games 31 Athletics Tournament was held at My Dinh Stadium, giving young athletes useful experiences, in addition to a tune-up for key athletes before the Games. According to head coach Hieu, the coaching staff still sets specific goals and targets for each long jumper, sprinter and javelin thrower, especially the key figures.

“The whole team is under pressure, which comes from the expectations not only of the coaching staff and the sports sector but also the home fans.

The team’s squad up to this point is very stable thanks to the early preparation plan for the SEA Games. Both the coaches and the athletes are ready and determined to bring achievements to Vietnamese sports,” the coach affirmed.

In addition to defending their position at the 31st SEA Games, the Vietnam national athletics team is also aiming for the Asian Games (ASIAD) this August. These are the two big challenges for the Vietnamese track and field in 2022.