Vietnamese swimming: Hopes arise from young athletes

Monday, 2017-10-02 10:15:31
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Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, 21, is expected to reap greater achievements for Vietnamese swimming in the future.
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NDO – Vietnamese swimming enjoyed a fruitful 29th SEA Games, with young talents Nguyen Thi Anh Vien (21 years old), Nguyen Huy Hoang (17) and Nguyen Huu Kim Son (15) securing 10 gold medals and breaking five records, helping the swimming team to fulfill their assigned tasks in a magnificent fashion.

As one of Vietnam’s “golden hopes” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, top swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien lived up to expectations, coming away with a stunning collection of eight gold and two silver medals, alongside setting three new Games records. Possessing special qualifications and receiving key investment for training, Vien is not only a shining star of Vietnamese sport but has also become one of the most valuable swimmers in Southeast Asia at present. Having achieved 19 titles and set 13 new records throughout her SEA Games participation, the Can Tho-born athlete has now become the athlete that contributes the most gold medals for Vietnam at the largest regional sporting event. After becoming the Asian champion in 2016, with victory in the 400m medley category, Anh Vien is still yearning for an Asian Games (Asiad) title, which is the immediate goal the “little mermaid” is striving to conquer at this time. Concerning her further goals, home fans are waiting for Anh Vien to produce a breakthrough at the upcoming 2020 Olympics, as she is going to enter the peak of her career following a long period of receiving key investment as well as becoming more mature in terms of both competition experience and mentality.

At this year’s SEA Games, Anh Vien remained the greatest hope of the swimming team, but her gold medal burden was shared by the juniors, including Nguyen Huy Hoang (one gold and one silver medal) and Nguyen Huu Kim Son (one gold and one bronze medal). After the situation surrounding the internal selection of two athletes representing Vietnam in the men’s 1,500m freestyle discipline, the two young swimmers, Nguyen Huy Hoang and Lam Quang Nhat, wore the national flag together on the victory podium. Interestingly, both gold medalist Huy Hoang and silver medal winner Quang Nhat clocked a much better time compared to the record time set by the 2015 Games champion Quang Nhat in Singapore.

Nguyen Huu Kim Son, 15, celebrates after winning the men's 400m medley race at the 29th SEA Games.

Apart from Anh Vien and Huy Hoang, young talent Nguyen Huu Kim Son was also a much talked about name of Vietnam’s swimming team on the “blue race” in Malaysia. Despite his young age of 15, Kim Son took the top honour and broke the 14-year long record in the men’s individual 400m medley event. In addition to being the youngest Vietnamese gold medalist at the 29th SEA Games, Kim Son also made history as the youngest title winner throughout the history of Vietnam’s participation at the SEA Games.

From 2010 backwards, the number of gold medals won by Vietnamese swimming at SEA Games versions could be counted by fingers, with three titles in 2005, 2007 and 2009 by swimmer Nguyen Huu Viet. It was not until the 2011 Games that Vietnam secured two SEA Games gold medals for the first time, thanks to the brilliance of Hoang Quy Phuoc. Turning to the 23rd SEA Games, with the emergence of Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, the Vietnam swimming team produced considerable improvements in their achievements by bringing home five gold medals – three for Anh Vien, one for Quy Phuoc and one for Lam Quang Nhat. Notably, the exceptional performance of Anh Vien in the last two SEA Games editions (2015 and 2017) has elevated Vietnam to second-place position in Southeast Asia with regards to swimming (only behind Singapore) with 10 gold medals.

Despite its remarkable progression in swimming over the past few years, there still remains a big gap between Vietnam and the no. 1 country in the sport in Southeast Asia, Singapore. Singapore won a total of 19 gold medals with a team of competent swimmers across both the men’s and women’s events. Notably, the number of Singaporean gold medalists was seven, compared to just three from Vietnam – Anh Vien, Huy Hoang and Kim Son. The poor form of other hopes, including Hoang Quy Phuoc, Tran Duy Khoi and Nguyen Diep Phuong Tram, in this year’s Games, also poses a problem for the coaching staff of Vietnam’s swimming team, who must come together and devise appropriate roadmaps and plans for each “rough pearl” to avoid the waste of their talent.