Vietnam News

Vietnam’s poor Asian Games performance predictable

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Vietnam’s director of the department of physical education and sports says the beatings his country’s squads took from other Southeast Asian teams at last week’s Asian Games was to be expected.

When the Asian Games concluded on Sunday, Vietnam won three gold, five silver and 19 bronze medals, ranking 21st overall and sixth in Southeast Asia behind Thailand (12 gold medals), Indonesia (seven), Malaysia (six), Philippines (four) and Singapore (three gold and six silver medals).

At the last Games, Vietnam won five gold, 15 silver and 19 bronze medals to rank 16th overall, and fourth in Southeast Asia.

The result was a stark contrast to Vietnam’s dominance at recent SEA (Southeast Asian) Games in which they were unstoppable and topped the medal tally at both the last two editions: 205 gold medals at home at the 31st SEA Games and and 136 gold medals at SEA Games 32 this year in neighboring Cambodia.

“Vietnamese sports are a force in Southeast Asia, but the poor Asian Games performance compared to the region is within prediction,” said Dang Ha Viet, head of the Vietnamese sports delegation at the Asian Games and Director of Department of Physical Education and Sports.

According to Viet, injuries plagued his nation this time around. Cyclist Nguyen Thi That, who won the Asian Championship and qualified for the Olympics, had to compete while hurt after suffering an injury so she only finished fourth at Asian Games.

Another example was the current women’s world number two boxer Nguyen Thi Tam, who just returned from injury and had no time to recover before meeting the reigning Indian world champion in the first round, standing little chance against the well prepped opponent.

Viet also named a few cases, like shooters Ha Minh Thanh and Trinh Thu Vinh, and Xiangqi players Lai Ly Huynh and Nguyen Thanh Bao who caught the yips and simply couldn’t perform to the best of their ability.

He did, however, point out that the outstanding Vietnam women’s sepak takraw team and star swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang competed extremely well against their international opponents.

“[But] it’s impossible to create Olympic and Asian Games champions in a day or two,” he added. He said that Vietnam’s national athletics program face difficulties in developing their key sports to global standards due to inadequate financing, a small selection pool and an outdated training system.

“Even when Vietnam can identify a key sport, we still cannot build it to the fullest,” he said. “We must have a selection system in 63 provinces and cities, and then we also need a rigorous [training and] competition system beginning in elementary school level to select talent.”

Another problem is the international trend of major sports gradually cutting down on lighter weight classes, leading to difficulties in competition for Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. At the Asian Games, weightlifting removed the men’s lighter 56kg event (in which Vietnamese lifters had competed well in the past), while rowing dropped the four-person event, in which Vietnam won the gold medal at the previous Games.

Viet also believes that his country lacks effective coordination between sports and other sectors such as health and education, making it difficult to create a breakthrough in developing athletes of top physical condition, especially considering the relatively shorter heights (and lighter weight) of many Vietnamese competitors compared to their international rivals.

Regarding the financial issue, Viet said that a cripplingly limited budget has been a problem for years. The state budget for sports is insufficient, he argued: there’s simply not enough money for proper scouting, training, top-tier tournaments, and, importantly, expert coaching.

The department head suggested that attracting sponsorship and resources from private enterprises could be a solution, but the country’s experience in this aspect of sports partnership is so limited that most athletic federations simply rely on the state budget alone and would collapse if left to fend for themselves.

The budget is only enough for basic needs, so using sports science to improve performance is considered a luxury that Vietnam does not have.

“Sports science is used for calculating exercise volume, recovery process, and nutrition to optimize tactics and techniques in competition,” Ha said.

He emphasized the importance of sports science by citing two cases. He argued that the women’s volleyball team needs a statistical department, and badminton player Nguyen Thuy Linh needs a coach and recovery doctor when competing abroad.

But he concluded by lamenting that neither can be accomplished of financial capacity.

By Hieu Luong – – October 9, 2023 

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