Vietnam has dominated the past three Games with 17 golds in 2017, 16 in 2019 and 22 at the last Games held a year later than scheduled in 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With just six weeks to go before the start of the Games, the team is training hard to keep its top spot.

“We have set a target for each group," said Nguyen Manh Hung, general secretary of the Vietnam Athletics Federation.

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"We hope to manage to win at least 14 golds. We can predict the maximum number of golds that we can earn from the Games, but that is our tactic so I cannot reveal that information to anyone."

The team has been training together since January with 53 promising members, in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Bac Ninh and Can Tho.

"My team has been strengthened with several new faces after seniors asked to quit," Hung said.

"The new ones were called following their good results in recent local competitions. However, the final list has not been made yet as all of them will have to vie for an official place,"

In the list, the federation named Le Tu Chinh and Nguyen Hoai Van who are recovering from injuries.

'Sprint queen' Chinh's leg surgery prevented her from defending her 100m title at the 31st Games while reigning javelin champion Van could not take part in last December's National Sports Games (NSG) because of a knee injury.

Chinh will train with Tran Thi Nhi Yen, winner of the NSG, and Kha Thanh Trúc, NSG bronze medallist, aiming to take back Games 100m and 200m titles for Vietnam.

Tran Trung Cuong is back in action after his good NSG performance, winning two golds in the men's 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m.

Cuong became well known nationwide when he advanced to the final of the world junior championship in 2018. He also won a silver at the 30th SEA Games' 3,000m steeplechase in the Philippines.

In the 800m event, Vietnam has dominated for nearly two and a half decades. Two new faces, Bui Thi Ngan and Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, will hope to continue that long-standing success.

Ngan and Ha won gold and silver, respectively, in the NSG's individual 800m before winning the 4x400m for their Nam Dinh team. Ngan's result was even better than Khuat Phuong Anh, who won the 31st SEA Games gold.

Other new faces are marathon runners Le Thi Tuyet and Nguyen Thi Ninh who were first and second place finishers at the NSG.

Their results, 2hr 24.30min and 2:48.30, were better than SEA Games winner Odekta Elvina Naibaho's 2:55.28.

Powerful senior athletes who are at a higher level compared to the rest of ASEAN include multi-time champion Nguyen Thi Oanh, 400m runner Nguyen Thi Huyen and walker Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc.

Oanh who won Asian Indoor Championship last month will defend her title in the women's 1,500m, 5,000m and 3,000m steeplechase.

Huyen won a silver in the Asian Indoor Championship.

Phuc, who finished sixth at the Asian Walk Race Championship on March 19, is a strong favorite in the 20km race.

The 32nd SEA Games, themed “Sports: Live in Peace,” will take place in Phnom Penh capital and four other localities, namely Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep, from May 5 to 17.

Source: VNA