Thirteen out of the 18 Vietnamese Olympic hopefuls began their medal journey in 11 sports over the last week, yet all their dreams quickly came to an unhappy ending.
Female judoka Van Ngoc Tu, who fired the starting gun for Team Vietnam, could not make it further than the first fight when she failed to score any points against Brazilian Sarah Menezes, who was seeded second at the women’s under-48kg event, on July 28.
The second Vietnamese athlete to take the stage, shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh, also had to stop at the qualifier round, this time in the men’s 10m air pistol event.
Then London Day Three saw all three Vietnamese gymnasts, Pham Phuoc Hung, Phan Thi Ha Thanh, and Do Thi Ngan Thuong, ousted from their events’ qualifiers.
The list of local hopefuls to join the early flight back to Vietnam has gradually been expanded with weightlifter Nguyen Thi Thuy and Tran Le Quoc Toan, badminton star Nguyen Tien Minh, shooter Le Thi Hoang Ngoc, rower duo Pham Thi Thao and Pham Thi Hai, and fencer Nguyen Tien Nhat all falling short in their medal quest.
Teenage swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien was also ousted from London after ranking 27th out of 36 at the women’s 200m backstroke event on Thursday.
With two of the country’s largest hopes, weightlifter Toan and badminton player Minh, both going home empty-handed, skepticism has grown over whether Vietnam can repeat the medal wonder it made at Sydney in 2000 and Beijing in 2008, when taekwondo martial artist Tran Hieu Ngan and weightlifter Hoang Anh Tuan inscribed Vietnam into the list of Olympic medalist countries.
Too big a challenge
Team Vietnam will begin its second chapter at the London Olympics on August 8, when two taekwondo martial artists, a race walker, a high jumper, and a wrestler start their competition.
The country’s medal expectations have now been transferred to Chu Hoang Dieu Linh and Le Huynh Chau, who are hoped to become taekwondo medalists besides Ngan of Sydney 2000.
Meanwhile, there is small chance for the three women -- race walker Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc, high jumper Duong Thi Viet Anh, and wrestler Nguyen Thi Lua to create a miracle.
Brazil's Sarah Menezes fights with China's Ngoc Tu Van during women's -48kg elimination round of 32 judo match at London 2012 Olympic Games (Reuters)
The Olympics thus remain beyond the talent level Vietnamese sport, as well as other Southeast Asian nations.
Thailand currently possesses only one weightlifting silver medal, while Indonesia managed to get one silver and one bronze for the sport. And Team Singapore has so far snatched only one bronze at the table tennis event.
The Games are still too wide a shirt for Vietnamese athletes to wear, and they have proven totally lost amid such an enormous sporting event.