Hanoi (VNA) – Karate is back in the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 29)this August, following its absence in Singapore two years ago.
Vietnam’sathletes are hoping to secure four gold medals and stay in the top three aftera successful 2016 season.
Malaysia, the hosts, would be the biggestchallenge. They topped the medal tally at the 27th Games in Myanmar, winningseven out of 17 titles, while Vietnam bagged three to stand second.
The young martial artists, it is hoped, willmake a bang. “Our team are in the process of rejuvenation. However, theathletes have made remarkable improvement, especially the women. It is thereason we believe we will win gold medals in Kuala Lumpur,” said Vu Son Ha,head of Karate Department of the National Sports Administration.
Athletes have been summoned from the beginningthe year. They are aged 18-20 in the kumite (combat) team and 16-20 in the kata(performance) squad. Many of them have bagged medals from continental and worldevents in the last two years.
NguyenThi Ngoan is one of the best athletes in the kumite team, trained by IranianSayed Hassan Shaterzadeh. She won a bronze at the Karate1-Premier League, theworld’s most important league event, in the women’s 61kg in April.
Ngoan also pocketed a gold medal from theAsian championship for U21 athletes last year. In addition, the fighter, whocompetes in the women’s 68kg class, won a title at the Southeast Asianchampionship in the same year. Later on, she was fourth in the worldtournament.
Nguyen Thi Hong Anh is another medal hope. Sheearned a silver medal at last month’s Asian tournament in the women’s 68kgcategory.
Other athletes who are promising are Trang CamLanh, who won a silver medal at the world youth championship in the women’s 55kgcategory in late 2015; Nguyen Thi Viet Trinh, an Asian U21 68kg silvermedalist; and Asian U21 bronze medal holder Tran Thi Khanh Vi in the women’s50kg category.
While theVietnamese women won gold in all SEA Games they participated in, for the men,the last title was won at the 2009 Games in Laos. They failed to win atMyanmar’s Games in 2013, although they entered five semi-final matches.
At the upcoming event, Nguyen Minh Phung willbe the most experienced athlete, winning a team title in the 2009 Games inLaos. At 24, Phung has showed his potential, and according to coaches, if hecan maintain his peak at the Games, he will definitely beat any strong rival inthe 75kg pool.
“A training course in Iran for the team inJuly was really helpful. They are more confident and improved their technique alot. Now we are waiting for positive results,” Ha said.
“This generation of Vietnam could attain highresults from elite competitions in the future. They can even win Olympic medalsif they receive stable and strong support from the government,” he said.
On the kata side, Le Thi Phuong and Le KhanhLy, who won bronze medals at the world youth event in 2015, are key players.They are training under former world champion Nguyen Hoang Ngan, who won herlast SEA Games gold medal in 2013 before retirement.