Vietnam stamp their authority in gymnastics
They boasted gymnasts with formidable reputations and were favourite to win in both the men's and women's individual all-around events at the SEA Games yesterday.
And the Vietnamese stars didn't disappoint.
Vietnam's Dinh Phuong Thanh and Pham Phuoc Hung won the gold and silver in the men's event, while countrywoman Phan Thi Ha Thanh claimed the women's gold in front of a packed crowd at the Bishan Sports Hall.
Singapore's Gabriel Gan took the men's bronze, while compatriot Nadine Nathan finished third in the women's event, behind Malaysia's Farah Abdul Hadi.
The youngest member of Vietnam's men team, 19-year-old Dinh was unsure of himself prior to the competition - feeling the pressure of measuring up to fellow teammate Pham, who qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Speaking to a scrum of reporters after his win yesterday, Dinh, who seemed a little surprised over all the fuss, said: "It's my first SEA Games, and I did not expect to win gold today.
"I felt a bit stressed when preparing for the competition, but told myself that I could do it."
Dinh was the highest-ranked South-east Asian male gymnast at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, and 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, and definitely lived up to the billing yesterday.
Pham was proud his younger teammate's performance, even if it did cost him the gold.
"I'm really happy for him. He was incredible," said the 26-year-old.
Dinh scored 86.150 points, while Pham chalked up 85.250.
Both Dinh and Pham train extensively in China.
Pham has trained in China from the age of five, while Dinh has been going through gymnastics instruction there for the last eight years.
Unlike her male counterparts, Phan trains mostly at home in Vietnam, with occasional month-long stints to Japan and Europe.
The 23-year-old won gold in the event the last time artistic gymnastics featured at the SEA Games in Indonesia in 2011, but there were doubts if she could retain her crown after an ordinary performance in qualifying.
"Yesterday, I was a bit overwhelmed by the competition in general," Phan, said of her performance on Sunday.
But she was transformed yesterday, demonstrating perfect fluidity on the balance beam and floor exercise, in particular.
Her overall score of 53.650 was higher than her mark in 2011.
All three Vietnamese stars have been suffering from injuries, with Pham diagnosed with a spinal problem in 2009.
Phan, meanwhile, has been competing with a knee injury.
But they are putting all that to one side as they strive to meet their Olympic goal.
"We are all gunning for the Rio Olympics next year," Phan declared.
"And this success will definitely help us."
"We are all gunning for the Rio Olympics next year. And this success will definitely help us."
- Women’s all-around event gold medalist Phan Thi Ha Thanh