Vietnam’s taekwondo fighters are aiming for at least one slot at the coming Olympics in Tokyo.
|Truong Thi Kim Tuyen of Vietnam (left) competes in the Asian Championship in 2018. Tuyen is expected to secure an Olympic slot at the coming qualification tournament in Jordan. — Photo hcmcpv.org.vn|
They will leave Vietnam on Thursday for intensive training courses in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan before competing in the 2021 Asian Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan, in May, and the 24th Asian Taekwondo Championship in Lebanon in June.
Vietnam won its first Olympic medal in any sport at the 2000 Sydney Games when Tran Hieu Ngan won silver in taekwondo.
Before her, Tran Quang Ha and Ho Nhat Thong triumphed at the Asian Games in 1994 and 1998, respectively.
Despite this history of success in the sport, no Vietnamese representative qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. Officials have admitted that a shortage of investment has led to a dip in quality among local athletes.
In recent times, Vietnamese fighters have been eliminated from the early rounds of large events such as the Asian Games, Asian and world championships.
However, a good result at the Southeast Asian Games in 2019 has created some optimism. The team pocketed five titles, five times more than what they targeted in Manila.
“The calendar for Olympic qualifying tournaments has been revealed. We will have about 80 days for training and competing for our target of at least one slot,” said head coach Vu Anh Tuan.
“Our hopes rest on athletes Truong Thi Kim Tuyen in the 49kg and Tran Thi Anh Tuyet in the 57kg categories in the women’s side and Pham Dang Quang in the 58kg and Ly Hong Phuc in the 68kg pool in the men’s.
“Our athletes have received COVID-19 vaccine shots recently and are in good conditions. They are ready for the journey,” Tuan said.
At the qualifier event, each category will see 16 athletes competing and only the two finalists will advance to the Tokyo competition.
Among all the athletes, Tuyen has the best shot at becoming an Olympian.
The 24-year-old won a gold medal at the world junior championship in 2016, a silver at the 2017 world championship and a title at the Asian championship a year later.
The silver was Vietnam’s best ever result in a world tournament.
In late 2019, she won two golds from open tournaments in Serbia and Greece to rise to No 10 in the world rankings.
“It is a tough job. Only the two best fighters will win slots instead of four previously. So we have to try really really hard. I will do my best and hope that luck will stand by my side,” Tuyen said at a recent press briefing in Hanoi.
Nguyen Van Hung is a dab hand on the basketball court and in the dojo and has the distinction of being one of few Vietnamese national champions in two sports.
Vietnam won a gold, silver and bronze medal at the Roma 2019 World Taekwondo Grand Prix which closed in Italy on Sunday.