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Vietnam set to miss Olympics qualification target

By Hoang Nguyen   March 22, 2021 | 08:15 pm PT
Vietnam set to miss Olympics qualification target
Vu Thanh An, Vietnam's number one hope for Olympic fencing qualification. Photo courtesy of Vu Thanh An.
The goal of having 20 Vietnamese athletes qualify for the Olympics might not be met for various reasons, mostly related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Tokyo Olympics had to be moved from 2020 to 2021 because of the pandemic, and it also affected the qualification chances of Vietnamese athletes.

If the Olympics had occurred last year as planned, Vietnam would have had one Judo athlete qualify, because the International Judo Federation would give the qualification ticket for the top six athletes in Asia by May 2020. At that time, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy was peaking sixth in the region and set to claim on Olympics spot.

However, when the event was postponed, Thuy couldn't hold her position because she couldn't take part in any international tournament last year. She dropped to the 10th position, as a result. Her last hope is the Asian Judo Championship, conducted as an Olympic qualification tournament, on April 3 in Kyrgyzstan, but Thuy could not attend this one, too, because there is no commercial flight from there to Vietnam. This means that Vietnam will not have any Judo athlete at the Olympics this year.

Southeast Asia's top fencing athlete, Vu Thanh An, is preparing to compete at the Olympic qualifiers in Uzbekistan in April, but at the moment, he's not 100 percent sure that he can go.

In weightlifting, Vietnam has Thach Kim Tuan in the world's top five and he just needs to stay in the top eight to get Olympic qualification. But Tuan can totally drop out of the top eight because he cannot compete in the Olympic qualifiers held April 15-25 in Uzbekistan. With no commercial flight from Uzbekistan to Vietnam, two other female weightlifters, Vuong Thi Huyen (ninth in the world) and Hoang Thi Duyen (seventh), will lose a chance to accumulate more points.

The Vietnamese athletics team will also have their last qualification chance at the International Relay Championship in Poland in May 2-3. They will have to be ranked in the world’s top 16 for a ticket to Tokyo. The taekwondo team will compete in the Olympic qualifiers hosted in Jordan in May, while the karate team will go to Paris. The gymnastic team will compete in China for the ticket, but with really strong opponents from South Korea, Japan and China, the qualification chances are slim.

The Department of Physical Education and Sports is planning for the rowing team to stay in Japan for training if they can qualify for the Olympics qualifiers in May, although this is a stiff challenge.

In 2020, Vietnam Aquatic Sports Association (VASA) asked the International Swimming Federation (FINA) for permission to make the results of the national tournament in May eligible for Olympic qualification and the FINA agreed. Therefore, the best swimmers in the country will compete in this tournament, hoping to get one more qualification ticket besides Nguyen Huy Hoang, who already earn his ticket in 2019. However, reaching the qualifying standards is not an easy task.

Vietnam has lost its chance at Olympic shooting after all of its three shooters attending the ongoing ISSF World Cup in India, their last chance to qualify for the Olympics, fell flat and were disqualified early. Hoang Xuan Vinh, who won the first Olympic goal medal ever for Vietnam in 2016, did not take part in this tournament because he is transitioning to a coach. High hopes were on the shoulders of Tran Quoc Cuong. The 45-year-old was 17th in the world and just needed to reach 16th place to qualify.

Vietnam can hope for two more qualifying spots in badminton, with Nguyen Tien Minh at 28th in men’s rankings, and Nguyen Thuy Linh 25th among women. The top 32 athletes will go to the Olympics, so Minh and Linh have great chances to qualify.

At the moment, Vietnam has five athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics: Nguyen Huy Hoang (swimming), Le Thanh Tung (gymnastics), Do Thi Anh Nguyet and Nguyen Hoang Phi Vu (archery) and Nguyen Van Duong (boxing).

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