Beginning this Friday June 5, the Southeast Asian Games will begin in Singapore with more than 7000 athletes from across the region competing for a total of 1327 medals. Athletes from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam will compete in 402 events before the closing ceremony on 16 June 2015.
Gymnastics will make its return to the Southeast Asian Games after being omitted from the 2013 Southeast Asian Games’ sports roster, a decision which proved highly controversial. Myanmar, the 2013 host, opted not to offer beach volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis at the Games, instead choosing to include traditional Burmese sports such as Chinlone and Sittuyin in their place.
With gymnastics restored for the 2015 Games, 66 Southeast Asian artistic gymnasts are set to compete next week with Vietnam posed to dominate the artistic gymnastics medal table. Team Vietnam is hoping to repeat their successes from the 2011 Southeast Asian Games where they won 11 of the 14 artistic gymnastics gold medals up for grabs.
Vietnam’s hopes to dominate the women’s artistic gymnastics events center around Vietnamese gymnastics star Phan Thi Ha Thanh, a favorite to win the all-around, vault, beam, and floor titles – everything but bars, where Phan has a 3.2 difficulty routine and struggles to land her double front tuck dismount.
As a three-time World vault finalist (and 2011 bronze medalist), World Cup beam champion, and floor event finalist at the 2014 Asian Games, Phan has the difficulty and execution to win comfortably if she hits. She plans on competing her double twisting Yurchenko and Rudi vaults, her 6.2 difficulty beam routine that includes a bhs layout and side aerial, and her 5.6 difficulty floor routine that includes a tucked full-in and a triple twist.
Her vault and beam difficulty may go unchallenged by fellow Southeast Asian gymnasts but Phan will still have to be clean on beam and floor to secure those titles. Phan’s bid for the all-around crown will depend on her overcoming inconsistency and hitting bars, however, even with major mistakes Phan should have the difficulty to still medal. The same goes for vault and beam.
Sure to challenge Phan on floor and in the all-around is Malaysia’s Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, who became a fan favorite at the 2014 Commonwealth Games due to her charisma and expressive floor routine. She placed seventh in the all-around at the 2014 Asian Games and eleventh at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She consistently hits 50+ in the all-around and has good execution overall, making her a threat on every apparatus at these Games.
Also representing Malaysia is Tracie Ang. Ang competed for Malaysia at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and helped achieve a historic fourth place team finish but was hampered by injuries in the years that followed. Now recovered, Ang is determined to fight for a floor medal with her expressive routines and wants to help Malaysia win a team medal.
Other women who also can factor into the medals include Vietnam’s Do Thi Van Anh and Do Thi Thu Huyen, Thailand’s Praepraw Doungchan, Singapore’s Janessa Dai, and the Philippines’ Ava Verdeflor and Lizzy Leduc (both of whom live and train in Texas).
The Vietnamese men’s team is also looking to continue the history of Vietnamese gymnastics excellence at the Southeast Asian Games. Team Vietnam’s fifth place finish at the 2014 Asian Games, ahead of any other Southeast Asian state, leaves them poised to retain their title as the reigning champions. Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore will, without a major upset, fight for the team silver and bronze with one missing out of the medals.
Regarding men’s event finals, Vietnam has brought a team that is capable for fighting for gold on every apparatus. The all-around crown will be fiercely contended by Dinh Phuong Thanh, Le Thanh Tung, and Pham Phuoc Hung – all representing Vietnam.
Dinh had the highest qualifying rank out of any Southeast Asian male gymnast at both 2014 Worlds and at the 2014 Asian Games. Dinh has the difficulty to challenge for medals at these Games in the all-around, floor, pommels, high bar, and parallel bars where he won the bronze at the 2014 Asian Games with a 6.8 difficulty.
Le, who has just .4 less difficulty overall than Dinh, is a major contender for the all-around, vault, floor, rings, and parallel bars medals. He recently won a bronze medal on vault at the 2015 Varna World Cup and has a 6.6 difficulty on the parallel bars.
Pham has the highest difficulty out of any of the all-around contenders but struggles with consistency, resulting in him qualifying behind Le and Dinh at 2014 Worlds. Pham won five medals at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games and boasts a 7.0 difficulty on the parallel bars, a 6.6 difficulty on rings, and a 5.9 difficulty on floor.
Dang Nam, a specialist, was the 2014 Asian Games rings bronze medalist and recently placed fourth on rings and vault at the 2015 Varna World Cup.
The Vietnamese men are not the only men to watch, however! Singapore’s Gabriel Gan Zi Jie is an all-around threat who makes up for his lower difficulty with consistency and execution. He placed sixth on pommel horse at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and has a difficulty of 6.0. Two of his fellow teammates, Hoe Wah Toon and Terry Tay Wei An, are both medal threats on floor and vault. Hoe made history for Singapore when he won vault bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Another threat on floor and vault comes from the Philippines’ Reyland Capellan, who has the highest floor difficulty of the athletes competing with a 6.2. Then there’s Thailand’s Rartchawat Kaewpanya, who has the highest pommel horse difficulty of the Southeast Asian men with a 6.4 difficulty. He placed sixth on pommels at the 2014 Asian Games and also has a parallel bar set that could challenge the Vietnamese men.
Gymnastics is the sport where, truly, anything can happen and hitting when it counts is vital. With that being said, the team from Vietnam is hoping to overcome inconsistency and dominate the artistic gymnastics medal table as they did in 2011.
Article by Esteban Rodriguez-Vazquez