The 2014 Asian Games (17th ASIAD) promises to be memorable for Vietnamese swimming as top Vietnamese swimmers Nguyen Thi Anh Vien and Hoang Quy Phuoc are prepared to compete for top honours, said the Nhan Dan (People) online newspaper.

Although it is one of the two fundamental Olympic sports, swimming has never been a strength of Vietnam’s in Asian competitions, even at the Southeast Asian (SEA) level. However, the situation has improved remarkably in the last three or four years thanks to the emergence of a generation of outstanding young athletes like Anh Vien, Quy Phuoc, Tran Duy Khoi, Lam Quang Nhat and Nguyen Thi Kim Tuyen.

These Vietnamese swimmers have been gradually re-drawing the regional swimming map with their sparkling achievements in the last two SEA Games editions. After the two gold medals won by Quy Phuoc at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia, Vietnam performed even at last year’s 27th SEA Games in Myanmar with five gold medals, three of which went to Anh Vien.

In 2012, Anh Vien became the first Vietnamese swimmer to reach the Olympic standard after qualifying for the London Olympic Games. These historic accomplishments have contributed to improving the status of Vietnamese swimming in the region, putting it on par with Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

With these positive signals, Vietnamese swimmers are strongly expected to create stirs at the 17th ASIAD, which takes place in Incheon, Republic of Korea from September 19 to October 4. Previously, the nation’s best ASIAD result was achieved by Vo Thai Nguyen at the 2010 Guangzhou ASIAD as he finished eighth among eight competitors in the men’s 200m butterfly finals.

According to Dinh Viet Hung, General Secretary of the Vietnam Aquatic Sport Association, Anh Vien and Quy Phuoc are expected to make the top five in all their registered disciplines. They are also entrusted to make the podium in some of their stronger events. In addition, Duy Khoi and Quang Nhat are seen as likely finalists in their favourite disciplines, Hung said.

It is truly good news for Vietnamese swimming that the athletes has made such important improvements since the latest ASIAD four years ago.
Hopes are pinned on Anh Vien to win the historic first medal for Vietnamese swimming at the upcoming 17th ASIAD in her favourite, the 200m backstroke. At the 27th SEA Games, the 17-year-old from Can Tho city broke the Games’ record in this discipline with a time of 2:14.80, 5.08 seconds slower than that of the bronze medal finisher at the 16th ASIAD.

She also broke the record in the 400m individual medley, another of her favourite disciplines, with a time of 4:46.16. However, this time still falls over four seconds short of the time that won bronze at the 16th ASIAD.

Although he won the men’s 200m freestyle gold medal at the 27th SEA Games in a time of 1:50.64, top Vietnamese male swimmer Hoang Quy Phuoc also failed to keep up with the time for the 16th ASIAD bronze, which was 1:47.73.

These statistics are evidence of the clear performance gap that exists between the SEA Games and the ASIAD. In order to bridge the gap and achieve the best preparation for the 17th ASIAD, Anh Vien has been training in the United States since early January. This is the third year running that Vien has taken part in such an extended US training course.

Following a period of physical preparation, Anh Vien showed off her amazing talent by winning four gold and two silver medals at the recent 2014 Florida Swimming Spring Senior Championship in Orlando, Florida. She then continued to stun the US swimming scene by grabbing four more gold and two additional silver medals from her six registered events at the 2014 NASA Junior National Championship. These victories are really good news for the national swimming team, as Vien is seen as one of the stars going into the 17th ASIAD in Incheon this September.

Her male teammate, Hoang Quy Phuoc, also rallied to an extremely impressive warm-up at the 2014 National Short Course (25m) Swimming Championships that concluded in Thua Thien-Hue province on March 23, winning 15 gold medals (11 individual and four relays) and smashing national records in the men’s 400m freestyle and 200m butterfly. This month, the ‘Han River otter’ will return to China for an intensive training course in preparation for the ASIAD.

Other promising young talents, including Duy Khoi, Quang Nhat and Kim Tuyen, will also receive key investments this year, moving towards further targets like the 2016 Olympics Games and the 2019 ASIAD.-VNA