JAKARTA (JP): Vietnam has emerged as a threat to neighboring countries at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games including the event's powerhouses Indonesia and Thailand specially in Indonesia's traditional martial art pencak silat.
Claiming seven of the 21 golds at stake in the 1999 SEA Games in Brunei Darussalam -- higher than Indonesia's achievement of only five golds -- Vietnam proved that hard work helped the country to become a strong contender specially in the women's side.
At the just-concluded Pencak Silat World Championships at the Pencak Silat Center in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, East Jakarta, Vietnam showed its great skills by grabbing a total of five golds, six silvers and two bronzes. Four golds, a silver and a bronze of the medals were claimed by the country's women's fighters.
"One of Vietnam's keys to success is the strong disciplines of the athletes during training. They always follow the coach's instructions, unlike Indonesian athletes who sometimes go against our orders," Vietnam's coach Zulman of Indonesia said.
"The Vietnamese never complain if we slap them for their mistakes, while most of our fighters can't take any strong disciplinary action or warnings."
Zulman gave credit to the Vietnamese eagerness to train and their speed of learning.
"Vietnam also has a unique recruitment system. Juniors first are focused on the martial arts events to develop their power."
"Then, they will be transferred to fighting events when they are older and have more power."
Indonesia's head coach Suhartono, who just ended his five-year coaching contract in Vietnam, confirmed that currently Vietnam has the best women fighters.
"Vietnam has shown improvement especially in the women's division. On the contrary, Indonesia has been neglecting the youngsters as we have always relied on old hands in previous SEA Games."
"We must be very careful with Vietnam because they have the best women fighters now."
Indonesia's women's coach Dahliana said Vietnam gave high priority to the sport.
"Pencak silat is a priority sport in Vietnam. It has a centralized and long-term training center just like our badminton training center." Similar warnings were also expressed by coaches from other countries such as Japan and Malaysia.
"Vietnam definitely dominates the women's division now thanks to their high spirit," said Japan's coach Susilo of Indonesia, who brought the sport to both Vietnam and Japan.
"But Indonesia must also be aware of women fighters from Thailand and the Philippines who are currently regenerating their players. They can pose some threat in the future."
Malaysian head coach Bahrain Ibrahim said Vietnam would still dominate the women's fighting events at next year's Games.
"We have to admit that Vietnam's women's fighters are still too strong for us as they trained very hard," he said. "But it doesn't mean that we'll just sit down and do nothing. I expect to get two or three gold medals in the women's events," he added.
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