Out in force to seek third medal

Nguyen Thi Anh Vien (white cap) after winning one of her swimming events at the 28th SEA Games in June 2015.
Nguyen Thi Anh Vien (white cap) after winning one of her swimming events at the 28th SEA Games in June 2015. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

VIETNAM'S BUDGET FOR RIO: VN48 BILLION (S$2.9 MILLION)

Vietnam's biggest Olympic Games contingent - 23 - in almost four decades will be tasked with winning just the country's third medal at the Summer Games.

The team will contest 10 sports, with shooting and weightlifting, the country's traditional strengths, the likeliest sources of success.

It sent 31 athletes to Moscow in 1980, four years after the reunification of the North and South to form present-day Vietnam.

Vietnam has never won gold. The first medal came from taekwondo exponent Tran Hieu Ngan, a silver in the women's 57kg class in Sydney 2000. Eight years later in Beijing, weightlifter Hoang Anh Tuan was second in the men's 56kg.

How times have changed. Its Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has poured in more than VN48 billion (S$2.9 million) to prepare its athletes and has set the target of winning at least one medal in Rio.

Besides patriotic pride, there are also substantial financial incentives from the state and corporate partners for those in the medal hunt.

For example, the Vietnam Shooting Federation had announced in May that gold medallists would received VN1 billion while sponsor Synopex Group has promised US$50,000 (S$68,000).

  • Team Vietnam

  • Vietnam boasts several elite athletes who will spearhead the country's bid to win just the third Olympic medal in its history.

    Among them are weightlifter Tran Le Quoc Toan, who was fourth at London 2012 and 2kg shy of a a podium finish, and two-time Asian Games swimming bronze medallist Nguyen Thi Anh Vien. Shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh is another proven world-class competitor with multiple titles at ISSF World Cups.

    Vietnam returned empty-handed four years ago and last won a medal in Beijing when weightlighter Hoang Anh Tuan finished second in the men's 56kg event.

  • THE CONTINGENT

    23 athletes in 10 sports (athletics, badminton, fencing, gymnastics, judo, rowing, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling)

Vietnam's investment in sport extends elsewhere. It has plans to develop its National Sports Complex in Hanoi, which includes the US$53 million (S$71 million) My Dinh National Stadium, and build new facilities for water sports, athletics and a cycling velodrome.

This will complement the National Sports Training Centre on the outskirts of the capital which houses national athletes from sports like shooting, badminton and silat.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Out in force to seek third medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe