1. Only five Vietnamese athletes have booked their official places in the Tokyo Olympics so far, including Nguyen Huy Hoang (swimming), Le Thanh Tung (gymnastics), Nguyen Hoang Phi Vu and Do Thi Anh Nguyet (archery), and Nguyen Van Duong (boxing). Such a modest figure only meets one quarter of the sport sector’s initial target of striving to earn 20 Olympic tickets. Even though the delay of the 2020 Games will give athletes more time to practice and improve themselves, it has triggered many concerns as preparation plans of departments have been disturbed. Athletes’ psychology and performance will be significantly affected, because in high-performance sports, the maintenance of form to coincide with the key tournaments is very important for both athletes and their trainers. To achieve high results in the world’s largest sporting event, athletes must spend a long time preparing and accumulating expertise and experience. In the context that competitions will take place up to a year later than the initial schedule, all the preparation plans regarding profession and fitness will have to be adjusted.
Meanwhile, the athletes with a high potential of winning an Olympic berth are also feeling nervous about their opportunities as a series of tournaments under the point accumulation system for the Olympics (in shooting, badminton, weightlifting and karate, etc.) have been temporarily suspended or indefinitely postponed due to widespread COVID-19 outbreaks. Taking Vietnam’s weightlifting team for instance, in the context of postponed tournaments, weightlifters only practice to maintain their fitness and make technical adjustments. Top Vietnamese female lifter Vuong Thi Huyen is also worried that the prolonged competition delay will increase the risk of recurring knee and back injuries, which could cause difficult recovery and could even get worse. In addition, Vietnam’s no. 1 shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh and teammates have not yet qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Hardly had they returned from overseas training in the Republic of Korea when they were put under a 14-day quarantine according to the COVID-19 prevention and control regulations. Undoubtedly, this would certainly have affected their psychology and form.
2. By being delayed until 2021, the Tokyo Olympics will coincide with the SEA Games 31, which will greatly affect the preparation plans of Vietnamese sport, because the SEA Games is also a playground where athletes will have to strive to fulfil the task of securing Vietnam a top-three finish in the overall medal count. Such a mission has become even more urgent next year, with Vietnam having been named the host of the SEA Games 31. According to Deputy Director of the General Department of Sports and Physical Training Tran Duc Phan, preparations for the Olympics are also considered a quality premise to drive Vietnamese sport towards future goals, including the 31stSEA Games and the 2022 Asian Games. Frankly speaking, the medal chance at the Olympic arena has always been beyond reach of the majority of Vietnamese Olympians.
Vietnamese sport is facing multiple challenge due to the pandemic when the entire competition system has almost been frozen since the beginning of 2020. The Olympic postponement is also predicted to bring numerous difficulties when, to some extent, it affects athletes’ training and competition plans from now until 2021. The current context requires the sport industry to make accurate calculations and long-term plans for the national teams, because tournaments will take place on a large scale when the disease is put under control, and it will be not easy to accomplish the professional tasks. Vietnamese sport will have to adjust all preparation plans, recalculate the training cycle, and carefully review and designing adequate new plans so that qualified athletes can both attend the Olympics and prepare for the SEA Games 31 mission. Athletes’ form will be different from time to time, requiring the coaching staff to make re-evaluations to set the most appropriate practicing orientations, ensuring athletes will have enough time to sharpen their psychology and skills to prepare for a busy 2021.