Emerging Vietnam plan to lift their profile

In just two days of the four-day powerlifting competition at the Asean Para Games, Vietnam have already shattered three Games records, clinched four out of six golds, and settled for one silver and a bronze.

They look set to gain even more medals at the Marina Bay Sands Hall B with Dang Thi Linh Phuong and Paralympian Chau Hoang Tuyet Loan competing today.

Both Phuong (women's 50kg class) and Loan (55kg) are defending champions and Games record holders. They are also ranked fifth in the world in their classes.

The team's dominance is a result of their rigorous training schedule, said national coach Nguyen Hong Phuc. They train a total of six times a week for two hours a day.

"The athletes started preparing a long time ago, and we try to find information about the opponents," he added.

The young and new athletes have to train for at least three months before a competition, whereas the senior athletes who are aiming for the Paralympics must have at least two years under their belts.

Vietnam also have world record holder Le Van Cong in the men's up to 49kg category. Cong, who set a Games record with a lift of 178kg on Saturday, jointly holds the world record of 182kg.

Cong's team-mate Nguyen Binh An is Asia's best powerlifter in the 54kg men's category. The world No. 2 also established a new Games record with a 175kg lift.

Phuc notes the team members are continually gaining experience as they compete overseas.

"We try to learn from Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Nigeria," he said.

"I'll see and learn and study and try to apply (their examples)."

Phuc, head coach since 2009, oversees everything, even formulating the training schedule and meals. Their food contains no fat or oil andlifters are encouraged to eat white meat, fish, eggs and fruit while refraining from red meat.

He acknowledges that his charges lag behind the standards of China, Iran and Iraq - who hold many powerlifting records.

"We are still quite distant from them. I'm still a student and they are the graduates," said Phuc.

But he is optimistic of beating them in "five years maybe, with new resources and more investments for the athletes to improve".

In other powerlifting matches, Singapore's Melvyn Yeo finished fourth in the up to 65kg men's category with his 112kg effort yesterday.

The debutant surpassed his personal best of 105kg recorded atthe IPC Powerlifting Open Asian Championships in Kazakhstan in July.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Emerging Vietnam plan to lift their profile'. Subscribe