Vietnam's top five gymnasts are set to compete at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo on October 7-16, announced the Vietnam Gymnastics Federation.

The event, which is also an Olympic qualifier, will draw athletes from 89 countries and territories, who will be challenging for a place at the London Games.

Phan Thi Ha Thanh and Pham Phuoc Hung will lead the team next month as they attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games.

They will be accompanied by Nguyen Ha Thanh and Hoang Cuong in the men's events and Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen in the women's disciplines.

Hung, 23, will play a key role for Vietnam at the event, where he hopes to excel on the parallel bars.

At the 2009 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Portugal, the Hanoian athlete finished fourth in the men's individual parallel bars, which was the best ever result by a Vietnamese gymnast at a top International Gymnastics Federation event since the country made its debut at the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

Hung, who has been training in China since 1998, is also a contender in the men's all-around competition, from which the top three in Tokyo will automatically qualify for London.

"The championships are always a big challenge for Vietnamese athletes. It's even harder this year because they are Olympic qualifiers," said head of the National Sports Administration's gymnastics section, Nguyen Kim Lan.

"However, I am hopeful of Hung's chances in Tokyo, as he is one of the most experienced Vietnamese athletes," she said.

Another hope for Vietnam is talented female gymnast Phan Thi Ha Thanh, who pocketed a silver medal in the women's individual vault event in Portugal two years ago.

Lan said that athletes from the top eight teams would be eligible for the London Games, while each team ranking from 9th to 16th in the Tokyo qualifiers would be able to send two athletes.

Teams finishing between 16th and 24th would be given just one berth each.

However, the head of the National Sports Administration's gymnastics section went on to emphasise that Vietnamese gymnasts would also be given chances to secure Olympic berths if they performed well at the pre-Olympic Artistic Gymnastics Championships, also in London next year.

In 2008 in Beijing, Do Thi Ngan Thuong became the first Vietnamese gymnast to compete at an Olympics, having been given a bye.

The team plan to leave for Tokyo on October 1./.