14 March 2011
Sad story of Vietnam’s pencak silat
Hong Ngoan, who has won many medals at regional and world competitions, has said goodbye to pencak silat though she is still one of the best athletes, with good health and superior technique.
Huynh Thi Thu Hong and Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy - SEA Games current champions – will not enter the national team because they are getting married. Other champions like Nguyen Viet Anh and Nguyen Thanh Quyen have refused to join the team for studies.
Last year, when the national pencak silat team convened to prepare for the world championship, two senior coaches Xuan Hai and The Lam refused to join the team. However, Vietnam didn’t lack good coaches so the team still had their coaches and won the championship.
Both coaches and athletes don’t want to play for the national team because of the following reasons.
Firstly, the investment policy for pencak silat has changed. Previously, when Vietnam aimed at the SEA Games, pencak silat was a key sport and pencak silat athletes were always welcomed home as heroes after regional and international competitions.
At the SEA Games 1999, Vietnamese pencak silat athletes won seven gold medals, accounting for more than 40 percent of the gold medals of the Vietnamese sports delegation.
At SEA Games 2001, pencak silat gold medals helped Vietnam to rank the fourth in the medal tally. Pencak silat athletes also won up to 11 gold medals at SEA Games 2003.
In that golden time, pencak silat athletes were always honored by the media and nominated as the country’s 10 best athletes of the year.
In recent years, though they won the world championship and gold medals at SEA Games, pencak silat athletes were not named in selections of the best athletes of the year.
Pencak silat is on the wane because Vietnam now focuses investment in sports for the Asian Games and the Olympics, not the SEA Games.
This year, the funding for pencak silat is equivalent to nearly one third of that for track-and-field while the number of medals won by pencak silat is high. Vietnam has registered only several international pencak silat tournaments this year.
Pencak silat athletes have to practice very hard and always face injuries but their income is low. Though they play well, they are not highly appreciated. As a result, athletes don’t want to play for the national team.
Vietnam still aims to enter the top three of the SEA Games from now to 2020 but if it doesn’t invest properly in pencak silat, it may fail to achieve that goal.