Vietnam and SEA Games

Since its reintegration into the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games arena 28 years ago, Vietnamese sport has been gradually affirming its position among the top three nations with strong sport development in Southeast Asia. From only three gold medal won at the 15th Games in 1989, Vietnam racked up 158 gold medals at the 22nd Games on home field in 2003, and has been maintaining an average tally of around 75 golds in the next Games editions. Concerning this year’s Games, Vietnam has sent more than 470 athletes to Malaysia in service of the goal of defending a top-three finish in the overall medal count.

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Medal Table

# Country Gold  Silver  Bronze 
1 Brunei 0 5 9
2 Cambodia 3 2 12
3 Indonesia 38 63 90
4 Laos 2 3 21
5 Malaysia 145 92 86
6 Myanmar 7 10 20
7 Philippines 24 33 64
8 Singapore 57 58 73
9 Thailand 72 86 88
10 Timor-Leste 0 0 3
11 Vietnam 58



Updated: 9h51 August 31, 2017

Vietnam through the Games

15th SEA Games

Malaysia, 1989

The 15th SEA Games in Malaysia marked the return of Vietnam after 16 years of absence from the largest regional sporting event (since 1973). At that time, the country was experiencing extreme difficulties, which made investment in sports very limited.

Therefore, it was a huge effort on the part of the Vietnamese sport sector to send 42 athletes to compete in eight sports in Kuala Lumpur, including athletics, swimming, shooting, table tennis, boxing, gymnastics, tennis and women’s volleyball.

However, almost no one in the Vietnamese contingent had dared to dream of winning gold medals as they witnessed the thorough preparation of other participating delegations.

Ngo Ngan Ha

But at last, Vietnamese athletes took both local fans and other competitors aback by winning up to 19 medals (three gold, 11 silver, five bronze), and ranking seventh out of the nine participating delegations. Shooting accounted for 14 of Vietnam’s 19 medals at the 1989 SEA Games, including all three golds.

Ngo Ngan Ha was the most spectacular Vietnamese performer at that time, claiming Vietnam’s only individual gold medal in the women’s standard rifle event and contributing to another team title in the same category. The remaining gold medal was won in the men’s team rapid fire pistol discipline.

16th SEA Games

Philippines, 1991

The 16th SEA Games in the Philippines was the second Games that the Vietnamese sport contingent attended after the national reunification in 1975. The country was represented by a delegation made up of 150 members, with 100 athletes competing in 15 out of 27 sports at the Games.

With better preparations, Vietnamese athletes brought home a total of 29 medals, including seven golds, 12 silvers and 10 bronzes, ranking seventh among the nine participating countries.

Dang Thi Dong

Shooting continued to be Vietnam’s “gold mine” contributing four of the seven gold medals won, two of which came from female shooter Dang Thi Dong.

She finished on top in the women’s 60-shot rifle prone event with 595 points, breaking the SEA Games record of 585 points and also breaking the Asian record of 594 points set by Chinese Jin Dong Xiang in 1982. Later, Dong also joined her teammates to take another team gold medal in the same category.

17th SEA Games

Singapore, 1993

The Vietnamese sport contingent participated in the 17th SEA Games with 200 members, including 139 athletes who vied for medals in 15 of 27 sports. Once again, shooters contributed significantly to Vietnam’s achievements, representing four of the country’s nine gold medals.

Dang Thi Dong went on to experience a successful SEA Games as she won both the women’s individual and team standard rifle events – her fourth and fifth gold medals at the SEA Games. It was also the third SEA Games in a row that Dong claimed at least one title.

Alongside the success of the shooting team, Vietnam recorded significant progress concerning martial arts, as the remaining gold medals were won in judo (two), karate (two) and taekwondo (one). Especially the last two gold medals secured by karate artists helped Vietnam surpass Myanmar in the overall medal standings for the first time, thus opening up a new page for Vietnamese sports.

Judo artist Cao Ngoc Phuong Trinh became one of the outstanding faces of the Vietnamese delegation as she was the first martial artist to secure a gold medal in two SEA Games editions consecutively, which had not been realised by anyone at that time.

18th SEA Games

Thailand, 1995

The 18th SEA Games in Thailand witnessed Vietnam’s claim of up to 10 gold medals; however, as for the home fans, the silver medal won by the men’s football team was the most impressive.

For the first time after years, millions of football lovers across the country had the chance to pour down streets to celebrate as Vietnam made it through to the semi-finals.

Ho Chi Minh City was filled with the festive atmosphere after its players, Tran Minh Chien and Le Huynh Duc, contributed significantly to Vietnam’s 2-1 semi-final victory over Myanmar.

Track and field athletes also set a milestone at the SEA Games arena with the gold medal secured by Vu Bich Huong in the women’s 100m hurdles discipline. It was the first title for Vietnamese athletics at the largest regional sporting event.

The men’s singles table tennis gold medal won by Vu Manh Cuong, the first for Vietnam after 28 years, was also among the biggest highlights of the Vietnamese contingent at the 1995 Games.

19th SEA Games

Indonesia, 1997

Since its debut at the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games (SEAP) in 1959 as well as its reintegration into the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 1989, never has Vietnam won such a large number of gold medals at the Games edition as seen in the 19th SEA Games in Indonesia, with a total of 35 gold medals.

That amazing number marked a historic milestone, signalling the strong resurgence of Vietnamese sports in the regional arena before rising to occupy leading positions in the Southeast Asian sports.

Footballer Van Sy Hung

Vietnam fielded a 595-member contingent to Indonesia, with 397 athletes contending for medals in 24 of 34 sports at the Games. Among the total tally of 35 gold, 48 silver and 50 bronze medals, the biggest feats were established by the shooting, taekwondo, judo, wrestling, pencak silat and karate teams.

Notably, Vietnamese wrestling, wushu and pencak silat demonstrated vigorous advancement, producing big surprise for other countries across the region.

As assessed by Doan Thao, head of the Vietnamese delegation to Indonesia at that time, Vietnamese athletes accomplished all their assigned tasks in an exceptional fashion.

It was a Games edition for which Vietnam had prepared the most thoroughly and fielded the largest delegation, he stated, adding that it could be considered a historic milestone for Vietnamese sports.

20th SEA Games

Brunei, 1999

It was the first time that a SEA Games edition was hosted by Brunei. Due to its limited land area, the host country only organised competition in 21 sports, leading to considerable cuts concerning the number of athletes and medal sets.

For the first time after years, millions of football lovers across the country had the chance to pour down streets to celebrate as Vietnam made it through to the semi-finals.

Coach Alfred Riedl leads Vietnam to the men's football silver medal in Brunei

The Vietnamese contingent departed for Brunei with 230 members, with 170 athletes competing in 14 events. Martial arts accounted for 14 of the total 17 gold medals secured by Vietnam at the Games, while the remaining three were won in athletics (2) and cycling (1). Particularly, the pencak silat team blasted up to seven gold medals, even more than those won by Indonesia, where this martial art originated.

Vietnam claimed both the men’s and women’s 800m run titles at the Brunei Games, thanks to Phan Van Hoa and Pham Dinh Khanh Doan, respectively, thereby marking the start of Vietnamese athletics’ domination on medium distances in Southeast Asia, which still lasts until today. This could be considered the best SEA Games for Vietnamese athletics since its debut at the largest regional sporting event, with a collection of two gold, four silver and eight bronze medals.

21th SEA Games

Malaysia, 2001

At the 21st SEA Games in Malaysia, the Vietnam sport delegation reported significant progresses, which were considered the “pedal” for the country’s most successful Games in history, to be held on home turf for the next two years.

A total of 412 athletes represented the country to compete in 24 sports, with shooting, athletics, taekwondo, cycling, pencak silat, wushu and table tennis contributing significantly to Vietnam’s overall medal count of 33 golds, 35 silvers and 64 bronzes.

However, the most noticeable highlight was the first-ever SEA Games gold medal won in the women’s football team event, which marked the formation of a new power concerning the women’s football in Southeast Asia.

Women’s football team

Also at the 21st SEA Games, Pham Dinh Khanh Doan became a new “medium-distance queen” in the region by snatching two gold medals on the 800m and 1,500m run.

In addition to these wins, despite taking only a silver medal in the men’s 100m breaststroke event (1:04.94), Tran Xuan Huyen quenched Vietnamese swimming’s medal thirst after 28 years, since the last silver medal secured by swimmer Do Nhu Minh at the seventh SEA Games in 1973.

22nd SEA Games

Vietnam, 2003

The 22nd SEA Games took place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from December 5-13, 2003. This was the first time in history Vietnam hosted the largest regional sporting event and the first time Timor Leste participated in the SEA Games arena.

Around 5000 athletes from 11 participating nations participated in the Games, with Vietnam and Thailand competing in all the 442 events in 32 sports.

For the first time ever, Vietnam led the overall medal tally with a total of 158 golds, 97 silvers and 91 bronzes, leaving Thailand far behind with only 89 golds.

Fireworks light up the sky on the opening night of the Games

Vietnamese shooters accounted for 25 of the total 42 shooting gold medals at the Games, with Nguyen Manh Tuong contributing five golds (three individual and two team titles) – an exceptional achievement that has yet to be conquered by any shooters so far.

For such an impressive showing, Tuong was voted the best male athlete of the Games, alongside Singaporean Joscelin Yeo, who claimed the women’s title with six swimming gold medals.

Vietnamese athletes march on the opening night

To some extent, the 22nd SEA Games had basically changed the face and position of Vietnamese sports in the regional arena. Up to now, Vietnamese athletes have always finished in the top three of the overall SEA Games medal count. The success also enabled Vietnamese sport to move towards further destinations as well as greater goals, such as the Asian Games and the Olympic Games.

The successful organisation of the 22nd SEA Games affirmed Vietnam’s ability in hosting large sporting events, acting as a premise for the country to take the honour of hosting big international sport games later on, including the finals of the 2007 Asian Cup, the third Asian Indoor Games in 2009, the 2016 Asian Beach Games and especially the 18th Asian Games in 2019.

23rd SEA Games

Philippines, 2005

Vietnam took part in the 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines with over 500 athletes, competing in 31 sports and ending up in third place overall with 71 gold medals, only behind Thailand (87 golds) and the host country (113 golds).

Bui Thi Huong won Vietnam’s first-ever title in the women’s 100m dash, the most attractive distance in track and field.

Nguyen Huu Viet makes history with the first gold medal for Vietnamese swimming after 44 years of waiting

However, the greatest highlight for the Vietnamese sport contingent at that time was Nguyen Huu Viet’s men’s 100m breaststroke gold medal, the first SEA Games swimming title for Vietnam after 44 years of waiting (since the last gold medal won at the second Games in 1961).

In addition, the five gold medals secured by the gymnastics team in Manila were also a source of surprise to all members of the Vietnamese delegation themselves.

24th SEA Games

Thailand, 2007

Vietnam sent more than 500 athletes to the 24th SEA Games in Thailand and successfully defended its third-place finish on the overall medal tally, with 64 golds, 58 silvers and 82 bronzes.

At that Games version, Vietnamese sport still affirmed its strength in regards to Olympic sports, including track and field. The athletics team went on to demonstrate their absolute domination on the women’s 100m and 200m, the men’s and women’s 800m and 1,500m run, by claiming a total of eight gold, four silver and five bronze medals, and establishing four new SEA Games records.

Vietnamese track and field athletes dominates short and medium-distances at the 24th SEA Games

In addition, Vietnam’s men’s volleyball team made it through to the final match for the first time ever since the country’s reintegration into the regional arena. Unfortunately, they had to settle for a silver medal after failing to beat their Indonesian opponents.

25th SEA Games

Laos, 2009

The 25th SEA Games was the first Games edition hosted in Laos, with only 25 sports organised, 18 events fewer than the previous Games in Thailand. At that time, Vietnam was represented by more than 430 athletes at the Games.

With many of their favourite sports embraced in the competition, including athletics, shooting, wrestling, taekwondo, judo, karate and Vovinam, the Vietnamese contingent brilliantly won 83 gold, 75 silver and 57 bronze medals to land in second place overall, just three gold medals fewer than the leader Thailand.

The second last day of competition was marked as a booming day of gold medals for Vietnam as their athletes added 20 golds to the delegation’s medal tally (six in pencak silat, five in wushu and four in wrestling), thereby increasing the total number of gold medals to 81, which surpassed the set target prior to the Games.

Regretfully, the men’s football team failed to make the country’s 50-year gold medal dream come true after they lost 0-1 in the final match to Malaysia, who were defeated 1-3 by Vietnam in the group stage competition earlier.

26th SEA Games

Indonesia, 2011

The 26th SEA Games was the fourth edition to be hosted by Indonesia, following the previous three in 1979, 1987 and 1997.

Attending the Games with over 600 athletes, Vietnam won a total of 96 gold, 90 silver and 100 bronze medals, ranking third among the ten participating delegations (excluding Brunei).

Vietnam's "gymnastics queen" Phan Thi Ha Thanh

Notably, Vietnamese gymnasts brought home up to 11 of the Games’ total 13 gold medals, rising to top the Southeast Asian region in the admiration of participating contingents.

“Gymnastics queen” Phan Thi Ha Thanh contributed the most significantly to Vietnam’s feat in Palembang, as she accounted for three golds, including the precious all-around title. It is also the most successful SEA Games in history for Vietnam’s gymnastic team.

In addition to gymnastics, the athletics, weightlifting and shooting teams also experienced a successful SEA Games, contributing nine, eight and seven gold medals, respectively, to Vietnam’s overall tally.

27th SEA Games

Myanmar, 2013

Participating in the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar with approximately 520 athletes, Vietnam successfully realised the goal of defending a top-three place in the overall medal count, winning a total number of 74 gold, 85 silver and 86 bronze medals, with 10 golds each in athletics and wrestling, seven in shooting and six in Vovinam.

Swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien

Despite securing only five golds, five silvers and two bronzes, Vietnamese swimming experienced a very successful competition in Nay Pyi Taw. Nguyen Thi Anh Vien became the first female Vietnamese swimmer to be crowned SEA Games champion over the past half century.

The Can Tho-born athlete wrapped up her SEA Games campaign with an amazing collection of three gold medals and two new SEA Games records – very impressive numbers. Especially, Vien was also the first female swimmer to produce such a miracle during the SEA Games’ 54-year history.

28th SEA Games

Singapore, 2015

The 28th SEA Games was a positive sign for Vietnamese sports as over two thirds of its gold medals won at the Games came from Olympics events.

Represented by 392 athletes in 28 of 36 events, the Vietnamese contingent won a total of 73 gold, 53 silver and 60 bronze medals, including 11 in athletics, 10 in swimming, nine in athletics and eight each in rowing and fencing.

Swimmer Anh Vien shines brightly with a collection of eight individual gold medals and eight new SEA Games records

Nguyen Thi Huyen was the most spectacular performer of the track and field team, as she captured three gold medals (two individual and one team), broke three Games records and secured two 2016 Olympic berths in the women’s 400m and 400m hurdles.

However, swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien was the brightest Vietnamese performer during the Games. Among the 10 gold medals won by the swimming team, Anh Vien took centre stage in both the domestic and international media with eight individual golds and eight new SEA Games records.

She also carved her name into the SEA Games history as the athlete to win the most individual gold medals, surpassing Singaporean athletes, Jescelin Yeo and Tao Li, who won seven each in 1993 and 2011 respectively.