Vietnamese rowers vow to add to four-gold tally
Four golds in the bag, team manager Duong vows more on the way
Under a sunny blue sky they waited yesterday, the calm conditions hardly creating a ripple on the water.
The Vietnamese rowers were about to change all that at the Marina Channel.
There were eight gold medals on offer on the first day of the rowing competition at the SEA Games. And, in perfect conditions, the Vietnam team ended the day with four wins and two second-placed finishes.
Vietnam's Nguyen Van Linh set the tone right from the off, winning the men's lightweight single 500m race.
His Indonesian opponent Ardi Isadi started strong, but the 25-year-old Nguyen fought back, pulling ahead in the last 200m to finish 2.14 seconds in front of Isadi with a time of 1 min 33.64 sec.
The battle lines were drawn, as Vietnam stated their intent to regain top spot in the rowing medal table ahead of favourites Indonesia, who finished ahead of them with five gold, one silver and three bronze medals at the 2013 Games in Myanmar.
In the women's lightweight double 500m event, Ta Thanh Huyen and Pham Thi Thao held a comfortable lead and eventually overcame Myanmar's Nilar Win and Shwe Zin Latt in 1 min 33.35 sec, a cool 3.73 seconds ahead.
With victories in the women's and men's pair 500m, as well as close seconds in the men's lightweight double 500m and the men's lightweight four 500m (the Vietnamese rowers lost by 0.61 and 0.42 seconds, respectively), it was no wonder team manager Duong Thi Hong Hanh was confident they would go on to snag more golds.
With 10 1,000m finals scheduled on Sunday, rowing could very well be the sport that gives Vietnam the edge in the race to be the top nation overall in the medal standings.
HERE TO WIN, NOT PLAY
Speaking through a translator, Duong said: "It was a great achievement (winning four gold and two silver medals).
"Every country had very good preparations and were very strong. The whole Vietnam rowing team and I are very happy. On the first day, we have already reached our target."
Having trained hard for both the 500m and 1,000m disciplines, Duong, 34, predicted the team were hardly finished with gold and coach Joseph Donnelly agreed.
"We came here to win, we didn't come here to play," he said.
The 64-year-old Australian, who has been with the Vietnamese rowing programme for six years, added: "We have to be at our best. Hopefully, our best is better than everybody else. Today it was."
Hosts Singapore, on the other hand, had a dismal day out on the water.
Finishing last in four events, they came closest when Joan Poh and Joanna Chan finished fourth in the women's pair 500m.
With a third-placed finish in the Asia Cup Rowing Championships earlier this year, they went into the race confident of getting on the podium.
But a missed stroke caused them to lose momentum and ultimately cost them a medal.
The only bright spot was a bronze medal and a new personal best of 1 min 47.46 sec for Sayidah Aisyah in the women's lightweight single 500m.
"I gave it my all. At that point in time, that was the best that I could do," she said.
"I left the water with no regrets."
A gold medallist in Myanmar, Aisyah will be looking to re-assert herself in the 1,000m race on Sunday.
The 27-year-old said: "I shouldn't be satisfied with this (bronze medal). I am still hungry."