Vietnamese gymnast Thanh eyes big haul at SEA Games

Mon Jun 1, 2015 4:54am EDT
 
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By Julian Linden

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Patience, as much as skill and flexibility, has become a necessary part of the armory of Southeast Asia's top-ranked gymnast, Vietnam's Phan Thi Ha Thanh.

Despite its universal appeal, gymnastics has not been a permanent fixture on the Southeast Asian Games program, an inconsistency that has both frustrated and tested the resolve of the region's leading competitors.

Few gymnasts have suffered more from the sport's infrequent inclusion at the SEA Games than the 23-year-old Thanh, one of Vietnam's most celebrated female athletes.

She won her first SEA Games gold medal in 2007, on the vault, as a precocious 15-year-old, but had to wait another four years before her next appearance after gymnastics was scrapped for the 2009 edition of the biennial multi-sports gathering.

When gymnastics was re-included in 2011, Thanh had already established herself as the region's leading light.

A few months earlier, she finished third in the vault at the world championships in Tokyo, becoming the first Vietnamese gymnast to medal at that level, a feat which earned her automatic qualification for the 2012 London Olympics.

At the SEA Games, she won three gold medals and a bronze. She won the All-Around title, as well as medals in three of the four different apparatus disciplines -- gold in the vault and floor exercise, and bronze on the balance beam.

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Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam competes on the vault during the women's apparatus final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo October 15, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files