The only Vietnamese swimmer to have previously won gold at the event was Nguyen Huu Viet, who triumphed in the men's 50m breaststroke in 2005. The 23-year-old athlete has been struggling with asthma, which has prevented him from recovering his top form.

Phuoc on the other hand, at only 18, has shown considerable progress this year with a time of 53.56sec achieved in the men's 100m butterfly event at the Southeast Asian Juniors Swimming Championships in Da Nang , shaving one second off his old time and breaking six records.

The swimming ace also became the first local athlete to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012 alongside breaking his own national records in the 50m and 100m freestyle events as well as in the 200m medley, all in one year.

"I hope that Phuoc can win gold at the SEA Games. He is currently in excellent form," said the vice director of the Da Nang-based sports centre, Nguyen Dong Hai.

"He has been trained in the very best conditions in Kunming , China ," he added.

The teenager confirmed his dream of palming a gold medal at this year's event.

"I've kept my head down and trained real hard domestically and abroad. My top target remains adding a SEA Games gold medal to the bronze I bagged the last time around in Laos ," Phuoc said.

Nguyen, who competed at the World Swimming Championship in Shanghai during July, adds to Vietnam 's hopes for gold.

The swimmer managed to set up a new 8min 17.57sec record in the men's 800m freestyle event during the national championship.

Vietnam 's third hope lies in teenager Nguyen Thi Kim Tuyen.

At only 17, the young athlete scored 11 gold medals across 15 events at the National Sports Games last year, breaking seven records.

Vietnam Aquatic Sports Association (VASA) General Secretary Dinh Viet Hung said: "The country has sent its largest swimming squad to compete in the SEA Games this year. We believe the young stars will have a chance to shine brightly during the event."

The country will additionally assign Ngoc Yen to compete in the women's 800m freestyle event, the first ever event that a Vietnamese female swimmer has competed in since the SEA Games begun in Thailand in 1959.

Regional athletes will be eyeing berths at the London Olympics as the World Swimming Federation (FINA) has included the 26th SEA Games in Indonesia this year as a qualifying event. /.