Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

VietNamNet Bridge – Top swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, 17, spent the Tet holiday in the US where she has been training with Florida’s Saint Augustine Swim Team as part of a special programme for elite sportsmen and women established by the national Sport Administration. It was her first Tet away from home, but the teenager took all hurdles in her stride as she powers towards her goal of breaking new ground for Viet Nam at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Viet Nam, swimmer, 2016 Summer Olympics, Nguyen Thi Anh Vien
Making a splash: Nguyen Thi Anh Vien is considered a young talent and a hope for Viet Nam glory at the Olympics. — VNS Photo

Teenager Nguyen Thi Anh Vien passed a huge milestone when she became the first Vietnamese swimmer to qualify for an official Olympic Games, making it to the business end of London 2012. She was the youngest Vietnamese athlete to compete at the Olympic Games since the country debuted at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

Although disqualified in the women’s 200m backstroke heat at the London Games, Vien remains a great hope for Vietnamese swimming due to her prodigious power.

Vien first showed her serious sporting potential when she clinched five gold medals at the Southeast Asian Swimming Championships in 2012 aged just 16.

She also marked her 15th birthday by bagging two silver medals in the women’s 100m backstroke and 400m individual medley at 2011’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia.

Having dominated regional competitions, Vien was sent on a three-month training course in Florida, to work towards an official berth at the London Games.

The athlete amazed Vietnamese coaches when she clocked in 2 minutes 15.15 seconds at the 2012 Indianapolis Grand Prix to pass the Olympic B standard (2min 15.42), and win a berth at the London Olympics.

“It’s an impressive result for a teenager. She achieved even better than we could expect,” said the Viet Nam Aquatic Sport Association (VASA)’s general secretary Dinh Viet Hung.

“Viet Nam had not seen a swimmer qualify for the final eight at an Olympic Games in over 50 years. The country has been struggling to win gold at regional competitions, so Vien’s achievement raised hopes for Viet Nam at the world championships,” he said.

Vien has been included in the National Sport Administration’s special funding programme for prodigies, undergoing a prolonged training camp in Florida. The programme has identified her as a gold winner at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Safety first

Born in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Can Tho, Vien started swimming at the age of four.

Her grandfather taught her to swim as he was afraid that Vien would die from drowning in the deep channel at the front of her house. But eight years of amateur training came to an end when she was recruited by the Military Sport Centre No 4 in HCM City.

“My grandfather showed me how to swim with the experience of an amateur, but it only helps me to avoid drowning. However, I gradually fell in love with swimming and was the catalyst for my dream to become a professional swimmer,” Vien said of her childhood.

“She has a big physical advantage over her competitors. She stood at 1.68m by the age of 11 with long arms and legs,” said national team coach Dang Anh Tuan.

“It’s the figure of a star. But she needs time to develop herself and overcome tough tests.”

Vien’s advantage over competitors may come from her arms which boast a 1.98m span. But it was the disciplined regime and skilful training in HCM City that helped her progress rapidly with a series of wins at national junior tournaments after a two-year course.

The teenager mopped up the competition at the Southeast Asian Junior Swimming Championships with six gold medals and two new records in June 2011, before bagging two silver medals at the SEA Games five months later.

“She demonstrates her power and a tough spirit in the water, which helps her swim well in her favourite backstroke event,” said the team coach. “I think she will only get better in years to come.”

“She is a true talent. That’s the reason she received a fund of US$100,000 from the national Sport Administration for a training course in Florida – where modern infrastructure and expert coaches help swimmers maximise their potential,” the coach added.

And the teenager herself believe it’s this support that has given her the edge. She said: “I was trained by experienced coaches with high-class equipment in Florida. I also practiced with different athletes in the US and Asian countries, which helped me to feel comfortable competing in big competitions.”

Vien said the time training at Florida’s Saint Augustine Swim Team also provided the unforgettable moment when she met her idol – US star Michael Phelps.

“I was lucky to train with Michael Phelps twice,” Vien recalled.

“After training, I tried to approach him through a crowd of fans and snap a photo with him. It was a great moment for me – to get the chance to meet and talk with my favourite giant swimmer in the world,” she said.

She is proud that her 1.98m arm span is only 4cm shorter than Michael Phelps’s arms. But she expects her arms to become longer and stronger as she seeks to boost her speed in the swimming pool.

“I aim to succeed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. But I have to work hard in training if I want a chance of achieving my goals,” the teenager said.

She added that the daily regimen and strict disciplines will be crucial factors in her success.

Vien remembers crying once when a coach forced her to finish a plate of food when she first joined up with the national team.

“Gradually, I have become more willing to follow my coaches’ instructions towards my training and nutrition. It helps me become more powerful, stronger and faster in competition,” she said.

“New updated techniques from foreign coaches in Florida have been crucial factors for me in improving my results.”

Vien has set up five national records, but she could break even more if she hits top form in the coming years.

During the voting for the sportsmen and women of the year, the Olympian ranked third in the top-ten Vietnamese athletes, just behind gymnast Phan Thi Ha Thanh and shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh.

“I intend to bag a medal at the Olympics – a tough task for Vietnamese athletes in the coming years. But I hope for a bright future through continued improvement.”

Viet Nam has won only two silver medals at Olympic Games since the country debuted in 1952.

The first was won by taekwondo artist Tran Hieu Ngan at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, while the second by weightlifter Hoang Anh Tuan in Beijing eight years later.

Source: VNS

By vivian