Vietnamese athletes nurture Olympian dreams for 2021

By Hoang Nguyen   February 23, 2021 | 06:00 am PT
Vietnamese athletes nurture Olympian dreams for 2021
Nguyen Thi Oanh breaks the national record in the women's 10,000 m category of the National Athletics Championship on November 13, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Kim Hoa.
Vietnamese athletics will remain focused on two main goals this year: qualifying for the Olympics and getting record results at SEA Games 30.

The nation's 4x400 m men's relay team is currently ranked 17th in the world with a best time of 3:19:50, nearly one second more than the 16th ranked team, Japan (3:18:77). The goal set for the team, with the July 5 deadline for Olympic qualification, is to improve their performance to reach the world’s top 16 and win a ticket to Tokyo.

Another Olympic qualification for Vietnamese athletics is expected to come from an individual performance. Quach Thi Lan, a 400 m hurdles specialist, has a great opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. She is on top in Asia and ranked 19th in the world. At the 2020 National Athletics Championship, Lan beat Nguyen Thi Huyen to win the 400 m gold in 55.98 seconds. This result was very close to the Olympic standard. To reach it, she needs to shorten her time by 0.58 seconds. She has done it before at the Asian Games 2018, winning the gold in 55.30 seconds. Now would be a great time to repeat the feat.

Apart from qualifying for the Olympics, Vietnamese athletes have set an ambitious goal of winning 17 to 19 gold medals in 47 categories at the SEA Games 31 that will be hosted by Vietnam. This is a tough, but not impossible goal, having done well in the previous two editions of the tournament. At the SEA Games 30, Vietnam won 16 gold medals in athletics alone.

Top track and field athletes in the country have shown good form. At the athletics championship last year, SEA Games champion Nguyen Thi Oanh won four gold medals in medium distances, breaking the national record that had stood for 17 years in the women’s 10,000 m category. In the same championship, Le Tu Chinh achieved an impressive timing of 11.43 seconds in the 100 m race, bettering her SEA Games 30 gold medal time of 11.54 seconds.

Younger athletes are also holding up promise for the future. Tran Van Dang surpassed his senior Duong Van Thai in the national championship to win gold in the men’s 800 m and 1,500 m races. Then there is Ngan Ngoc Nghia, who set a new national record with 10.40 seconds in the 100 m race and won his second gold medal after running 200 m in 20.92 seconds.

The biggest challenge facing Vietnamese athletes at the moment is participation in international tournaments like the Indoor Athletics World Championship (expected to take place March 19-21 in China), the Asian Relay Championship Asia (March 27-28 in Thailand) and the 24th Asian Athletics Championship (May in China). On the one hand, the events and participation of athletes depend on the Covid-19 situation, and on the other, athletes need to participate in more competitions to gain experience and improve their skills.

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