Athletes from snowless Vietnam ready for 2017 Asian Winter Games
Vietnamese winter sports athletes pose for a photo during a training session on sand dunes in Mui Ne, located in south-central Vietnam.
The Asian Winter Games will run from February 19 to 26 in Sapporo and Obihiro, with 31 teams slated to compete in sports like skiing, ice hockey, snowboarding, and curling, all of which have yet to be introduced to the Southeast Asian country.
The Vietnamese General Department of Sports and Physical Training thus took many by surprise when holding a press conference to announce the national team’s participation in the upcoming sporting event on Wednesday.
Even Tran Duc Phan, the body’s deputy head, admitted it was an odd situation.
“We almost have no conditions to practice winter sports in Vietnam,” he told reporters.
“However, as a member of the Olympic Council of Asia, Vietnam is encouraged to participate in all sporting events held by the body.”
Phan said participation in the upcoming Asian Winter Games is a chance for Vietnam’s sporting body to consider “developing such winter sports at home.”
Vietnam will send a 13-member delegation to Japan, including six athletes who will compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. One head coach will join the crew.
The team will leave for Japan on February 13 to familiarize themselves with the competition venues and the local weather.
Speaking at Wednesday’s briefing, Mai Ba Hung, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City sports department, said it is not so unusual for Vietnam to take part in a winter sports competition.
Hung added that all six Vietnamese athletes had been trained thanks to the Dream Program, an initiative sponsored by South Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“The program provides sponsorship for athletes from tropical countries to train in winter sports in South Korea,” Hung elaborated.
“Since 2013, Vietnam has had four to five athletes partaking in this program every year, with each training course lasting about a month.
“This is to say that athletes selected to compete at the 2017 Asian Winter Games are not really unfamiliar with skiing.”
Following the training opportunities in South Korea, the Vietnamese athletes have continued practicing at home, though their training has been limited to sand dunes in the south-central beach resort town of Mui Ne, according to the official.
Hung also said Japan will provide five round-trip air tickets, while a local sponsor has promised a VND100 million (US$4,464) credit, for Team Vietnam.
“The general department of sports will only have to pay the expenses for ten members of the 13-member team,” he said, adding the private sector will cover the remaining.
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