Vietnam's Asiad target is wishful thinking

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A match between Vietnam and Thailand at the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 in Bangkok on November 30. The Vietnamese team has been criticized for its poor performance in the regional competition.

It is impossible for Vietnam to achieve the target of winning 15-16 gold medals and rank sixth or seventh at the Asian Games (Asiad) in 2019. For one, it does not have many outstanding athletes and for another, seven years is not enough to train athletes to medal-winning levels at the Games, former head of the High-Achievement Sports Department, Nguyen Hong Minh, who managed Vietnamese athletes at many international events, tells Vietweek.

Vietweek: What were your feelings when you heard we have won bid to host the Asiad in 2019?

Nguyen Hong Minh: Many former leaders and experts in the sports sector have said that we should not host the Asiad because we do not have enough time to improve our athletes' prowess to a stage where, as the host nation, it can rank high at the competition and meet people's expectations. This is the first reason.

The second is that we do not have the human resources, including management and professional cadres, to organize the event.

The third reason is that our facilities for sports competitions are outdated and fail to meet the needs of hosting an event like the Asiad. Our football association faces a shortage of football fields, while the swimming association lacks swimming pools.

The shortcomings are mainly due to the economic slowdown, which hurts all sectors, including sports. In a tough economic situation, it is unreasonable to host the Asiad. Thus, many people are not excited, but worried on hearing that Vietnam will host the Games.

I myself think that it is worrisome. Now, we should make great efforts to host the event. However, we have not yet imagined all the work that we need to do to prepare for the Games.

Is our goal of winning 10-15 gold medals at the Games feasible?

Each Asiad normally has some 32-36 sports and 300-360 medals. The number of sports at each event has not yet been regulated, but I think the Asiad technical committee will impose some limits. So we cannot suggest the inclusion of too many sports that we have an advantage in so as to increase our gold hopes.  To think that we can, in the next seven years, do enough to win 15-16 gold medals and rank between number six and 10 at the event is delusional.

The best result that we have gained so far is four gold medals at the 2002 Asiad. At the latest Games in China, we won only one gold and 13 silvers.

With the current situation with our athletes, gaining 16 golds at the Games is a very tough mission. Among young athletes who compete in the Asiad seven years on, there are only a few outstanding ones, including one or two in track and field, a couple in swimming and three or four in shooting.

These athletes will be 24-30 years old then, and past their prime. The number of top quality young athletes who can compete in the Games will be around 12-15, not enough to meet the target.

So we face a shortage of excellent athletes, and we do not have enough time to improve the young ones.

"To think that we can, in the next seven years, do enough to win 15-16 gold medals at the event is delusional"

Nguyen Hong Minh


China prepared for eight to 10 years to host the Olympics. Others countries also take that much time to prepare for big international events. Seven years is enough for us to improve the skills of the current crop of young athletes, but not enough to train those who are just starting out.

There are about 100-140 Olympic and world champions from several countries competing at Asiad. To compete and win against them is not easy. Thus, the gold medal target for the 2019 Asiad is just groundless.

Regarding the team ranking, Vietnam will not be able to be among the top 15, let alone top 10, if China ranks the first with 180-200 golds. China normally wins around 200 golds, followed by Japan, South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It will be very good if we can win 10 golds and rank 12-14 at the 2019 Asiad. Many participating countries have had strong sports sectors for a long time, so it is difficult for us to beat them.

What are the sports that Vietnam should invest in to compete at the Games?

Vietnam has an investment strategy for 27 Olympic sports, including track and field, swimming, shooting, weight-lifting, karate, basketball and football. It is very difficult for us to gain medals at the team sports. We can get some medals in track and field and gymnastic events. However, our leading athletes in these events will be old by 2019, so we can only pin our hopes on one or two swimmers, one or two track and field athletes, and one weightlifter.

What should Vietnam do to gain the best results at the 2019 Asiad?

We should make the big efforts to improve the situation. We should have a national program to train athletes and submit to the government for approval, and the National Assembly should approve it. The program will be ineffective if it is approved too late, in the next one or two years, because the training takes eight to 10 years. The program will be very costly, so the government should consider it carefully. This is also an issue that we should carefully consider when hosting the Asiad.

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