Nguyen Thi Thuy is expected to bring home a gold medal in pencak silat at the 29th SEA Games. (Photo: zing.vn)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) – Vietnam's pencak silat artists strive to pocket three gold medals at the ongoing 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Malaysia.

At the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games two years ago in Singapore, Vietnamese pencak silat martial artists defeated strong rivals from Indonesia and Malaysia to win three golds, five silvers, two bronzes—and took the lead in the event.

At the Games in Malaysia this week, the Vietnamese team will compete without some of its strongest athletes from 2015 and must navigate changes to the competition rules. But they still hope to come out on top with a crew of fresh faces.

Vietnam will send 20 martial artists to the Games. Fourteen players will compete in the combat event, while six will compete in the performance category.

The three gold medalists in 2015 were Hoang Quang Trung in seni (performance) category, and Diep Ngoc Vu Minh and Hoang Thị Loan in tanding (combat).

This time, only Loan remains on the team. 

However, Malaysia eliminated the women’s 60kg combat division in which Loan bagged gold medal in Singapore, so she will have to take part in the 65kg category with unknown rivals.

“Although Vietnam only competes in four categories in the women’s combat events, they are still stronger than players of Malaysia and Indonesia,” said head coach Nguyen Van Hung.

But Hung said the competition changes and the shuffling of the team’s roster don’t necessarily preclude a repeat victory.

“At the Games two years ago, martial artists who had been expected to gain gold performed unsuccessfully. Minh, Trung and Loan were suddenly crowned with success. So in pencak silat, competitors may win without a long record of victories distinguishing them from others,” said Hung.

“We have a team whose members are equal in quality to the 2015 team. This is a factor to help the team be confident to fulfill their goal of earning three gold medals,” he added.

Most of Vietnam’s martial artists are young aces, competing in the Games for the first time.

“Of course, only outstanding players are called to the national team. They will suffer from the pressure of taking part in the largest regional sports event for the first time. However, I believe they will overcome and play well,” said Hung.

Nguyen Thi Thuy is expected to bring home a gold medal in the performance event.

Thuy of Hanoi team, 26, has trained in in pencak silat for more than 10 years. She has won world and Asian tournaments, but only gained one silver medal in the SEA Games in 2015.

She has delayed having a child until she completes her goal of earning all titles from world to region event.

Besides Thuy, the Vietnam team includes veterans who are world champions, such as Le Sy Kien, Nguyen Duy Tuyen, Tran Dinh Nam and Nguyen Nguyen Thai Linh. These players alongside relative newcomers are expected to shine at in the matches that will take place from August 24-29.-VNA