Notably, 90% of Vietnam’s 58 gold medals won in Kuala Lumpur were in Olympic events, which could be considered a great success for Vietnamese sport, as it is currently on a path to escape the “local pond” – SEA Games – and rise towards the Asian and Olympic levels.
Vietnam dethrones Thailand in track and field
Vietnam’s biggest success in this year’s SEA Games came in the track and field competition as, for the first time ever, Vietnam surpassed Thailand to lead the sport’s medal tally at the SEA Games arena.
Thailand sent an athletics team of 80 athletes to Malaysia, with a target of winning 14 gold medals, which, as stated by Athletics Association of Thailand (AAT) deputy general secretary Supawanat Ariyamongkol, would be enough to defend their title as the overall track and field champions during the biennial games.
However, Thailand’s plan was unraveled as their competitors only managed to secure nine gold medals before the athletics competition concluded on August 26, eight titles fewer than Vietnam’s tally.
For the first time, after 14 versions of the Games, Thailand lost their crown as reigning champions in the sport.
Discussing Vietnam’s victory, Tran Duc Phan, head of the national SEA Games delegation, affirmed that Thailand brought their strongest lineup to Kuala Lumpur, not young inexperienced athletes, so all of the wins secured by Vietnamese athletes were quite deserved as they showed their abilities, whilst also holding significant meanings.
The success beyond the expectations of Vietnamese athletics is a worthy result of a correct and concentrated investment strategy, based on the strongest lineup of athletes so far, Phan said.
The triple victory of Le Tu Chinh, on the 100m and 200m sprint and 4x100m relay events, was an unbelievable performance for a SEA Games debutant.
Particularly, in the women’s 4x100m relay, Chinh contributed significantly to Vietnam’s miracle of beating Thailand to bring home the historic gold medal and set a new Games record.
For how she performed, Chinh has proved herself as a worthy successor of the “queen speed” Vu Thi Huong, who helped Vietnam to dominate the Southeast Asian region’s short distances over the past few years.
Alongside Tu Chinh, Nguyen Thi Huyen went on to affirm her no. 1 position in her favourite disciplines of 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay, including setting a new SEA Games record.
It would also be a shortcoming to overlook the impressive wins secured by Vietnamese athletes in the medium distances: 800m and 1,500m.
Despite regrets following gold medal misses in some events, it is undeniable that Vietnamese athletics has experienced a very successful SEA Games.
Victories registered in many other fronts
Excluding the incomprehensible failure of Olympic champion Hoang Xuan Vinh in the men’s 10m air pistol and 50m pistol categories, most of Vietnam’s teams, especially in the Olympic sports, have left strong impressions with encouraging results in the SEA Games arena.
In regards to swimming, “little mermaid” Nguyen Thi Anh Vien repeated the same miracle that saw her win Singapore two years ago, securing eight individual gold medals and breaking four Games records.
With this amazing collection, Vien is not only the brightest Vietnamese performers but also among the most valuable athletes at the Kuala Lumpur Games.
Concerning other Olympic events, the men’s gymnastics team accounted for five of the Games’ seven gold medals; Vietnamese table tennis players overcame their Singaporean opponents to win the men’s team title for the first time since 1989; and weightlifter Trinh Van Vinh claimed a shocking gold medal and broke two records in the men’s 62kg category, beating a reigning Olympic runner-up.
Especially, at the 29th SEA Games, Vietnam introduced a number of new young promising athletes. It came as a great surprise to everyone as 15-year-old swimmer Nguyen Huu Kim Son blasted his way to a gold medal and set up a new Games record in such a difficult discipline as the 400m medley.
Meanwhile, Huy Hoang, who is two years older than Son, did the same thing in the men’s 1,500m freestyle category.
Le Tu Chinh, the youngest member of Vietnam’s track and field team, also made a perfect debut at the SEA Games arena with three golds and one Games record.
Although the SEA Games is only a regional-level playground, the success achieved by the Vietnamese athletes there will be a launchpad for them towards achieving greater results at the continental and world level Games, such as the Asian Games and the Olympic Games.