Vietnam’s key athletes have demonstrated top form ahead of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China and 17th Asian Games in Incheon, Republic of Korea, strengthening the country’s hopes for gold medals in the year’s most important international sporting events, according to the English version of the Nhan Dan (People) newspaper.

In keeping with expectations, the most outstanding performer of Vietnamese sports in 2013, Nguyen Thi Anh Vien has continued building on last year’s success with a booming start to 2014.

After making national history with an amazing collection of three gold, two silver and one bronze medals at the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Anh Vien benefited from her hard work at training courses in the United States from the opening days of 2014, harvesting 18 gold medals at both the 38th Southeast Asian Age-group Swimming Championships and the 2nd South East Asia Swimming Championships, held in Singapore in June.

Vien swam away with nine gold medals in each of these tournaments, making her one of the events’ most impressive competitors. She broke records in all her registered 16-18 age group disciplines at the regional age-group competition before setting seven new ones as part of her nine gold medals at the regional championships, bringing Vietnam its first-ever championship title in the tournament’s history with a total of 12 gold, four silver and four bronze medals, overcoming the region’s strong nations in swimming, including Singapore with 11 gold, 15 silver and 12 bronze, and Thailand with eight gold, nine silver and 12 bronze medals.

Alongside her gold medals, Anh Vien also convinced professionals by breaking further into SEA Games and Southeast Asian records in her favourite events, including the 400m medley (4:49.03), 200m breaststroke (2:12.74) and 800m freestyle (8:40.75), which has shown her increasing advancement as a result of her strong focus and appropriate training.

It is, however, much tougher to win gold medals at an Asiad competition, with numerous challenges posed by stronger opponents compared to the Southeast Asian area. Anh Vien once had her fighting spirit challenged and failed to perform her best at the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar in late 2013.

Vien is scheduled to join Vietnam’s qualified athletes in mid-August to compete in the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, which will provide her with an ideal opportunity to improve competitive spirit prior to the biggest continental sporting event – the 17th Asiad which to be held in September. According to a report by the International Swimming Federation (FINA), Anh Vien and her two teammates, Tran Duy Khoi and Le Thi My Thao, have qualified for the YOG, with Vien eligible for nine disciplines.

World-class champions

Another promising face, 19-year-old Thach Kim Tuan, has also performed considerable progresses recently. Tuan is among Vietnam’s three key weightlifters who are on a Hungary training course in preparation for the 17th Asiad.

The Ho Chi Minh City-born athlete challenged himself in the World Junior Championships, held in Russia’s Kazan in late June, and impressed with three gold medals and two records in the men’s 56kg weight category. His total lift was 293kg (133kg snatch, 160kg clean and jerk), breaking further into the 185kg achievement (129kg snatch, 156kg clean and jerk), which earned him a gold medal at the 27th SEA Games, and even beating that of 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medallist, Vietnamese Hoang Anh Tuan (290kg) and gold medallist, Long Quingquan of China (292kg) in the same weight class. Although weightlifting has not been assigned a gold target at the upcoming 17th Asiad, Kim Tuan’s brilliant form makes it possible for a miracle to be created.

Apart from the youth power of Anh Vien and Kim Tuan, Vietnam sporting veterans, Hoang Xuan Vinh (shooting) and Phan Thi Ha Thanh (gymnastics) also achieved outstanding results from world-class competitions in the first half of 2014. Marksman Xuan Vinh shattered a world record in the men’s 10m air pistol with 202.3 points at the recent 2014 ISSF Rifle and Pistol World Cup Stage in Fort Benning, Georgia, USA, while the Hai Phong city-born gymnast Ha Thanh began an amazing 2014 with a vault gold at the Korea World Top 2014 and two others on vault and balance beam at the 2014 Grand Prix Osijek in Croatia.

Those outstanding performances are positive signals to Vietnamese sport ahead of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games and especially relevant to the country’s target of winning 2-3 gold medals at the 17th Asiad.

According to the General Department of Sports and Physical Training, Vietnamese athletes brought home a total of 177 international medals in the first sixth months of the year, including 70 gold, 55 silver and 52 bronze, with world-class medals: 13 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze; Asian medals: four gold, 13 silver and 14 bronze; Southeast Asian medals: 50 gold, 26 silver and 24 bronze; and other tournaments: three gold, four silver and five bronze.-VNA