Vietnam pares back Olympic ambitions

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Gymnast Pham Phuoc Hung is expected to win 2012 Olympic berths for Vietnam

Vietnam has halved its target for Olympic berths in London next year to 10 after reconsidering its athletes' qualifying chances.

According to Hoang Vinh Giang, vice chairman and general secretary of the Vietnamese Olympic Committee, Vietnam has won five berths through badminton player Nguyen Tien Minh, gymnast Phan Thi Ha Thanh, swimmer Hoang Quy Phuoc, and taekwondo artists Dieu Linh and Huynh Chau.

"We hope to win at least five more berths and our hopes are pinned on sprinter Vu Thi Huong, medium-distance runner Truong Thanh Hang, gymnast Pham Phuoc Hung, shooter Ha Minh Thanh, and a fencer," Giang said.

More investments and training

Hang successfully defended her 800m title at the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia this month, but Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy general secretary of the Vietnam Athletics Federation, was still unhappy: "Hang did extremely well in the first 600 meters and would have qualified for the Olympics if she had maintained her speed over the final 200 meters.

"We have no complaints about Hang's performances in training. At times her results were far better than Olympic qualifying times, but her performance in actual competitions has not been very good.

"I, coach Ho Thi Tu Tam, and other trainers will continue to look for the reasons, and will have plans to help Hang and other athletes improve their performance to reach the set goals. Hang will continue to train in China."

About sprinter Huong, Hung said: "The General Department of Physical Training and Sports as well as the [Vietnam Athletics] Federation still hope Huong will qualify for the Olympics, but she is still recovering from injury, which makes it hard for her.

"However, we still believe in her and recently coach Dinh Minh suggested hiring a foreign coach, perhaps an American one, to help Huong achieve the goal."

Hopes are also pinned on young woman high jumper Duong Viet Anh who won the gold at the recent SEA Games after jumping 1.90 meters because the B standard - referred to as the Olympic Invitational Time, which is slightly easier to achieve - is 1.92 m.

Hang, Huong, and Anh will compete in three Asian Grand Prix events in May, June, and July and a few events in Europe, hoping to qualify for the Olympics.

Male gymnast Hung (parallel bars), who won the gold medal at the SEA Games, will compete in Britain next month to qualify for the Olympics, but it is going to be arduous since he will come up against 94 other strong international contestants from around the world.

It is a pity that though Vietnam is allowed to field one more female competitor, Thu Huyen and Ngan Thuong cannot go because of injuries.

Vietnamese fencers will compete in the Asian qualifiers in Japan next April, and the coaching staff hope one of them will qualify for the Olympics. They prefer not to mention names, though Vietnam won five gold medals at the SEA Games.

Four Vietnamese will compete in the Asian Shooting Championships in Qatar next month, but it will be very hard. Hoang Xuan Vinh, one of them, said it would be great if they could qualify for the Olympics. If they fail to, wild card Ha Minh Thanh in the men's 20m rapid shooting pistol event will have to carry the nation's hopes.

In rowing, coach Nguyen Van Thang said the only hopes are in the men's and women's doubles categories.

The Asia canoeing qualifying contests are likely to be too difficult for Vietnamese competitors since they can only qualify if they win. Thang said Vietnam was seeking a wild card for Tran Van Long, Southeast Asia's best canoeist now.

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