A target of five gold medals has been set for Vietnam's taekwondo team at the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar, but this could prove to be a tough task without their strongest members.

Countries will be competing for 21 sets of medals (16 for kyorugi or combat and five for poomsae or performance). However each country can only pick 12 weight categories in kyorugi and three in poomsae.

The Vietnamese poomsae team have been set a target of two gold medals, but they may struggle because of the rules.

"It will not be easy for us because we are only allowed to compete in three out of five events. I will be very happy if we manage to win one gold," said Nguyen Thanh Huy, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Taekwondo Federation and head coach of the poomsae team.

"Two years ago, we were lucky to claim two because there was no limit on the number of events each team could compete in and our athletes were at their peaks. This year, former world champions Nguyen Dinh Toan and Nguyen Minh Tu are struggling with their performances after consecutive losses. Their chances of defending their titles is unclear.

"My team will try their best, and in my opinion, the trio of Nguyen Thi Thu Ngan, Nguyen Thi Le Kim and Chau Tuyet Van, who are the world champions, will make it," Huy said.

Huy said in poomsae, points were given for technique and difficulty. However like many performance events, the judges sometimes favour the host nation.

Golden trio

In recent years, the Ngan-Kim-Van trio have become well-known in the world of taekwondo after successes in both continental and global competitions.

"After their world titles and Asian gold, they have proved their power. However, the difficulty of the performance will need to be very high this year," said coach Huy.

"Despite their reputation, they will still have to train hard. Based on what they have done, I think they can succeed," Huy said.

The trio first performed together at the world championships in 2010 in Uzbekistan.

Ngan said: "It is the most meaningful medal for all of us because we won it on our World Cup debut."

One year later they successfully defended their title in Russia.

Despite failure at the 2012 competition in Columbia, they triumphed at the Asian tournament in Ho Chi Minh City.

The team were also successful at the World University Taekwondo and the World Military Taekwondo championships.

Their latest achievements were two golds at the world tournament held in Indonesia in late October.

Ready to fight

In the combat events, strong athletes including Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu and Chu Hoang Dieu Linh will not be there to support the team. Thu is suffering from an injury while Linh has decided to retire.

However, the team managers have a plan.

A team of nine athletes are training at the Keimyung University in Daegu city, the Republic of Korea, where they have the chance to work with the new electronic body protectors which will be used in Myanmar.

According to coach Ho Anh Tuan, all of them have performed well. During practise, they have taken part in a tournament for Asian students and won one gold, two silvers and three bronzes.

World bronze medallist Le Huynh Chau (63kg), defending champion Duong Thanh Tam (74kg) and two-time winner Nguyen Trong Cuong (87kg) are expected to do well.

Vietnam's female fighters are under the tuition of South Korean expert Jung Jin-hee at the National Sports Centre 3 in central Da Nang city.

Among the six athletes, Jung has put her trust in Doan Thi Huong Giang (49kg) and Ha Thi Nguyen (73kg).

"This competition is not only a battle between Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, we have to look at the hosts Myanmar who have been preparing well for martial arts," said Truong Ngoc De, chairman of the Vietnam Taekwondo Federation.

"Based on our careful preparations and our athletes' form, I believe we will complete the target of four to five gold medals," De confirmed.

The team will gather on December 6 before departing for Myanmar on December 14.

Taekwondo events will be held from December 16-21 at the Wunna Theikdi Sports Complex in capital city Nay Pyi Taw.-VNA