Vietnamese runners target Olympics qualification

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Sprint queen Vu Thi Huong and middle distance runner (800m, 1,500m) Truong Thanh Hang are training hard to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Local experts say the athletes should concentrate on the Olympics rather than the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia in November where they should be defending their titles easily because as are no strong rivals in the region.

Huong and Hang both participated in the 2008 Olympics in China but they did so with wild card entries, not after qualifying. This time, they want to qualify.

Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy general Secretary of Vietnam Athletics Federation (VAF), said, "There are strong grounds for our ambition because Hang and Huong are at their peak.

"With a double budget of US$160,000 this year, we can make big track and field investments. For the first time, Huong, Hang and Le Ngoc Phuong will train in Germany at an expense of $44,000. We will also put VND150-170 million ($7,200-8,100) into cash prize funds."

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is yet to announce an official requirement for qualification for the 2012 Olympics, but it is likely to be below 11.30 seconds for the 100m race, the benchmark for the 2008 Olympics.

"My personal best was at the Southeast Asian Games in 2009 where I did the 100m in 11.34 seconds. That is 0.4 seconds more than the Olympic qualification requirement. At the Asian Games in China in 2010, I won the bronze medal but I covered the 100m in 11.43 seconds. That's why I must train hard now. I'm leaving for Germany on April 18 for a training course and I hope the 3-week training in Cologne and Frankfurt will improve my performance," Huong told Thanh Nien.

Coach Nguyen Dinh Minh said, "It will be extremely hard to improve Huong's performance, but we are determined to make it better. The main tests will be the Asian Track and Field Championships in Kobe (Japan, July 7-10), the World Track and Field Championships in Daegu (South Korea, August 27 till September 4) and the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia in November."

Thanh Hang's coach Ho Thi Tu Tam said, "Hang will train in China from May 1-28 before going to Germany for more training."

German expert Uwe Freimuth, who is also training Hang, has said that Hang, who finished second in the women's 800m and 1,500m races at the Asian Games in China in 2010, can qualify for the London Olympics.

A VFA website report said, "Uwe has suggested making Asian Games runner-up Hang one of the world's top 10 in her category, which no Vietnamese expert has ever thought of before. However, Hang's performances at the 16th Asian Games in China in 2010 have made VAF believe in Uwe Freimuth's suggestion."

Hang herself said, "To be in the world top 10 is a dream for any athlete; but I know I must do more, especially in nutrition and technical skills."

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