The much-anticipated 31st Southeast Asian Games officially kicks off tonight when Hanoi’s My Dinh National Stadium lights up and opens the floor to athletes, coaches, and spectators from the region.
This is the second time Vietnam is hosting the most thrilling regional game, and it vows nothing less than a spectacular evening to formally welcome more than 10,000 people who’ve waited long enough to witness the event finally come to fruition. Organizers said that both state-of-the-art technologies and cultural emblems will take the center stage tonight.
Technologies such as mapping, augmented reality and extended reality, among others will be used, while the symbols of 40 sports will be depicted in the style of Dong Ho folk painting art, a traditional craft of Vietnam, through graphic images, according to a report released on the official SEA Games website.
Do Dinh Hong, Director of the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports and Vice Chairman of the Sub-Committee for SEA Games 31’s opening and closing ceremonies, said the opening ceremony will depict a beautiful, friendly and hospitable Vietnam, which is striving, together with other ASEAN member countries, to grow stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic. The sporting event was supposed to take place in 2021, but had to be postponed due to rising coronavirus cases in the region.
Vietnam’s 1,341-strong delegation hopes to be hospitable hosts to its regional peers, while also doing its best to bring home gold medals for the country. Vietnam is competing in 40 sports and aims to take 140 gold medals to top the medal table.
Considering Vietnam’s performances in the previous Games, there’s high hope that Vietnamese athletes will shine in all sports.
We’ve listed some Vietnamese star athletes to watch in the 31st SEA Games — all proud to carry the Vietnamese pride in their respective fields.
Vu Thanh An - Fencing
Fencing champion and one of Vietnam’s most adored athletes Vu Thanh An will hold the Vietnamese flag high and proud during the opening ceremony of the SEA Games 31. This is An’s fifth time taking this honorable duty, having first carried the flag at the opening of the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
Anh, who bagged gold medals in three consecutive SEA Games, will be one to watch as the country’s golden hopes are pinned on his shoulders for the fencing event. The 29-year-old won two gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games in 2015, before winning a title at the Asian U23 Fencing Championship and a bronze medal at the Asian competition in 2016. He then proceeded to defeat Italian fencer Diego Occhiuzzi at Rio in the first round of the men’s saber competition. He was, however, defeated by Vincent Anstett of France in the round of 16.
This year, An — who used to play football before switching to fencing — is set to display fervor, confidence, and charm in the individual and team events.
“Currently I am at a higher level than other Southeast Asian athletes. I believe that for the next few years, I will still be a power in the region and win,” An told VNS after winning at the 30th SEA Games in 2020.
Fencing competitions will start on May 13 at Hanoi Indoor Games Palace.
Nguyen Huy Hoang - Swimming
All eyes are on Nguyen Huy Hoang, one of Vietnam’s most prominent swimmers and the source of hope for a golden win. Along with more than 20 other swimmers on the national team, Hoang trained in Hungary and returned home on April 23, equipped with everything they needed to win the competition.
Hoang will be vying for medals in three individual and one or two relay events. He’s expected to claim gold in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle.
The national swimming team carries the pressure to represent Vietnam well after star athlete Nguyen Thi Anh Vien announced her retirement. At the previous SEA Games in 2019, Vietnamese swimming claimed 11 gold medals, of which six belonged to Thi Anh Vien.
The current team, however, is confident they’ve prepared long and well enough to face the current. Vietnam is set to face stiff competition from Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Swimming events at SEA Games 31 will take place from May 14 to 19.
Tran Van Thao - Boxing
Tran Van Thao was nicknamed “The Trigger” for a reason: He was the first Vietnamese boxer to hold the WBC Asia belt. A true star in his field, Thao was the national champion for eight consecutive years — and he vows to continue his legacy.
Thao has been training hard for months now, spending five hours every day to make sure he’s in his best shape when he enters the ring to represent Vietnam.
But while his track record has already proven his strength, Thao told VnExpress that he faced several challenges on the road to SEA Games. For one, he had to lose five kilos to be able to compete for the 52-kilogram category.
"My coach has made a suitable training and nutrition plan for me, so now I’m well-prepared. All I ate was vegetables and fruits, which helped cleanse my blood since that will enhance my performance during high-intensity training," he said in an interview with VnExpress.
The SEA Games boxing tournament will take place from May 15 to 22 in the northern province of Bac Ninh.
Le Van Tuan - Track and Field
One of the oldest athletes in Vietnam’s line-up, Le Van Tuan surely is setting his sights on a gold medal. The SEA Games is the first and maybe the only regional game that Tuan will participate in, making him all the more determined to give it his all.
During practices, Tuan has shown tremendous passion and resilience, beating his own record every time. As a winner at the VPBank Hanoi Marathon 2020 — which earned him a ticket to the SEA Games — Tuan believes he’s not too old yet to prove that he can achieve great things in a competitive sport. In fact, a 42-year-old Singaporean marathoner, Jasmine Goh, will also be competing in track and field. Both “senior” athletes said the sport is about experience and endurance, and not so much about age.
“My goal is not to come first or second, or beat anyone, but to run faster than myself yesterday,” Tuan told VNA. "I want to have the opportunity to stand on the highest podium and see the national flag flying high. That is my dream. I hope the advantage of home turf will help me realize it.”
Track and field competitions at the SEA Games 31 will take place from May 14-19 at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi.
Van Quynh Phuong - Dancesport
Van Quynh Phuong may be the youngest Vietnamese athlete participating in this year’s Southeast Asian Games, but she dreams big — and she vows there’s no stopping her from bringing home a gold medal in dancesport.
The 9th grader is relatively new to the game, having only professionally trained for dancesport three years ago. But Phuong already has 26 golds from major national and international competitions under her belt.
Phuong will be dancing with Tien Minh, who won the national U18 championships. The duo, who now ranks 142nd in the world, will vie in the waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot, quickstep, samba, cha cha cha, rumba, paso doble, and jive categories. They have set a target of winning three golds.
Dancesport competitions are scheduled for May 15-16 at Long Bien Gymnasium in Hanoi.