The 2018 Asian Games (Asiad) concluded its three weeks of competition in a glittering closing ceremony on Sunday, with Team Vietnam achieving their target, while some medal hopefuls had a disappointing journey in Indonesia.
Vietnam’s sports delegation returned home to the warm welcome of thousands of fans in Hanoi the same day.
The country ranked 17th out of 45 countries and territories in the medal table, striking a total of 38 medals, including four golds, 16 silvers and 18 bronzes, exceeding the assigned target of winning at least three gold medals, with one in an Olympic sport.
Many Vietnamese athletes marked new milestones in their own careers as well as the history of their respective sports, bringing excitement and pride to their supporters.
But the joy is not really complete as many sport teams have fallen behind expectations at this edition of Asia’s biggest playground.
The greatest achievements of Team Vietnam at the event came from long jumping, rowing, swimming and men’s football.
Bui Thi Thu Thao reigned the women’s long jump to bring the country its first-ever Asian Games track-and-field gold medal, while the women's rowing team paddled to claim gold in the women's lightweight quadruple sculls event. Both long jumping and rowing are Olympic sports.
Following the footstep of these veteran athletes, young swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang won a surprising silver medal in the men’s 1,500m freestyle on Day 6 of the Games, setting a new height for Vietnam’s swimming at the top continental sporting event.
Especially, the men’s football team had an amazing run at the 2018 Asian Games as they made it to the semifinals after five straight victories without a single goal conceded. Their performance was better than any other national squads in Vietnam’s football history, helping the country to no longer be seen as underdogs at continental playgrounds. Vietnam ended up at the fourth place in men’s football, losing the UAE 3-4 in penalties.
But Vietnam would have missed its target of winning three gold medal, had it not been for the excellent performance of the pencak silat team. Vietnam won one gold medal each in the men’s 90-95kg and 70-75kg events.
These precious medals are illustrative of many advances and breakthroughs Vietnamese athletes have made in professional sports, especially Olympic sports.
Vietnam began their 2018 Asian Games with the most recent gold medal in an Olympic sport being won 20 years ago, when taekwondo martial artist Ho Nhat Thong topped the men’s under 54kg category at the 1998 Asian Games in Thailand.
Putting the joy aside, experts believe that Vietnam should also address shortcomings after the campaign in Indonesia to draw experience.
Vietnam sent a record 352 athletes to compete in 32 sports at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2. These athletes won 38 medals in 13 sports.
To put this in perspective, only 200 Vietnamese athletes participated in the 2014 Asiad, but they also snatched 36 medals, including one gold, ten silvers and 25 bronzes, ranking 21st in the overall medal tally.
This means sending more athletes to a competition does not necessarily mean being able to bring home more medals.
On the other hand, many athletes that carried the biggest hopes of supporters eventually had to leave the Games empty handed.
Those medal hopefuls are shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh, Olympic swimming star Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, gymnast Le Thanh Tung, cyclist Nguyen Thi That, karate fighter Nguyen Thi Ngoan and taekwondo martial artist Truong Thi Kim Tuyen.
According to experts, failure stems from the inaccurate assessment of the athlete's capacity, and wrong estimates about opponents. Besides, competition pressure and inadequate training process are also to blame for the failures of these athletes.
These failures, therefore, should be carefully reviewed to draw lessons for the preparations for major international sports competitions in the near future, according to sports analysts.
Despite the downsides, supporters shared with the players their hard-working journey at the 2018 Asiad, and welcomed them home with cheers.
A program titled “Proud of Vietnam” was held by the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) on Monday afternoon at the My Dinh national stadium to honor outstanding athletes, whereas Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also met some top athletes to congratulate them on the successful medal journey in Indonesia.