Sports - August 4, 2021 | 01:11 am PT

A look back at Vietnam’s Olympic journey

From upset, disappointment to rare positive sparks, here are nine highlights of Vietnam’s Tokyo Olympics performance.

Despite facing Aliyev Tayfur, one of the most promising talents in Azerbaijan at the moment, Pham Van Duong (R) fought with composure, accuracy and won 3-2 in the first stage of the men’s 57 kilogram Olympic boxing bout.

However, in the round of 16, Duong quickly lost 0-5 to world number three, Erdenebatyn Tsendbaatar of Mongolia. After the game, the Vietnamese boxer said: "I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t perform the way I wanted, because the opponent was really strong."

Although having won a historic Olympic gold medal in 2016, veteran shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh (2nd, R) was not considered a contender this time. In recent years, he was struggling with his form and only qualified for Tokyo Olympics thanks to an invitation slot. Vinh got eliminated in the first round of the 10 meter air pistol category, with 573 points after 10 shots, placing 22nd out of 36 shooters.

"I'm sorry. I tried my best but the result is not what I expected. I had a muscle problem in the fourth turn so I couldn't maintain my form," Vinh said.

Thach Kim Tuan is one of Vietnam's biggest hopes to win a medal at Tokyo 2020. However, the 27-year-old had a disappointing performance in the men’s 61 kilogram event as he failed to register a total. He lifted 128 kilograms in the snatch category and couldn’t lift the barbell thrice in the clean and jerk. The same thing happened to him in Rio Olympics 2016.

Vietnam’s number one female swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien failed to make it past the heat of the women’s 200 m and 800 m freestyle. In the 800 m freestyle, Vien finished last while in the 200 m, she placed 26th out of 29 swimmers. The results are not surprising, considering Vien’s form and that these categories are not her strengths. The 25-year-old has won many titles, but she is still missing an Olympics and world championship medal.

Nguyen Thuy Linh had an impressive performance in her first Olympic event, with victories against higher-ranked players. She won 2-0 against France’s Qi Xuefei in the first game, but lost 0-2 to world number one Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan in the second. Linh had a great game with Tai, causing her a lot of difficulties but couldn’t win. In the last game, Linh defeated Swiss player Sabrina Jaquet 2-0 to peak second in her group, but still got eliminated because only the top player of each group can advance. Linh is only 23 and still has plenty of room for improvement. She will be a key player for Vietnamese badminton in the coming years.

Before the Olympics, weightlifter Hoang Thi Duyen was predicted to bring the silver medal to Vietnam, as she has had a great run at international tournaments for the past two years. However, an injury right before Tokyo Olympics seemed to affect Duyen’s performance. The 25-year-old only placed fifth in the women’s 59 kilograms, with a total result of 208 kilos after the snatch and the clean and jerk categories.

At 38, Nguyen Tien Minh is the oldest badminton player at Tokyo Olympics. Badminton World Federation praised him for his persistence. But Minh, who is in the last years of his career, couldn’t keep up with younger and stronger opponents. He lost to world number three Anders Antonsen of Denmark, before losing to Azerbaijani player Ade Resky Dwicahyo. Minh has failed to make it past the first round of all four Olympic events that he has participated in.

Nguyen Huy Hoang, one of the young and promising talents of Vietnamese swimming, failed to make it past the heat round of the 800 m and 1500 m freestyles. In the 800 m swim, Hoang finished second in his group but overall, only placed 20th among 34 athletes. In the 1,500 m freestyle, Hoang also failed to get into the top eight, bringing down the curtains on the 21-year-old’s Olympic journey.

Another rare spark for Vietnam is Quach Thi Lan (last). She became the first Vietnamese runner to advance to an Olympics semifinal. In the first stage, she initially peaked fifth but moved to fourth after Jamaican Leah Nugent was disqualified for crossing lanes. In the semifinal, Lan only peaked sixth out of seven runners in her group, while only the top two of each group can advance, bringing another unsuccessful Olympic attempt to a close for Vietnam.

Photos by AFP