Vietnamese swimmers set realistic Olympic target

By Xuan Binh   July 20, 2021 | 12:00 am PT
Vietnamese swimmers set realistic Olympic target
Nguyen Thi Anh Vien competes in the national championship in October 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
Advancing to the Olympics final will be considered a great success for swimmers Nguyen Huy Hoang and Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, since getting a medal is out of reach.

Since the 1988 Olympics, Vietnamese swimming didn't miss one single event. However, there hasn't been a swimmer from Vietnam to pass the first round (heat round) and reach the final.

The best result that a Vietnamese swimmer achieved in an Olympic event is Nguyen Thi Anh Vien in the women’s 400 m individual medley at the 2016 Olympics where she peaked ninth. Only the top eight of the heat can advance. Vien was a mere 0.31 seconds shy of the final.

This year, Vien will compete in two categories that are not her strengths: the 200 and 800 m freestyle. Vien’s recent results in these categories are far below that of other Olympians.

Vien is one of the most decorated swimmers in Vietnam with 66 medals and titles, including 25 gold medals in SEA Games, which made her the fifth most successful athlete in the history of the event. The 25-year-old also claimed the Asian championship title, won a silver at the world championship and bronze at Asian Games. The only thing Vien is missing in her collection is an Olympic medal.

Vien is no longer in her prime, having set five personal and also national records at SEA Games 2017, aged 21. She has not managed to repeat her form since.

Vien’s chances in the 200 m freestyle are positive since the category will take 16 athletes to the next round. At Olympics, the result needed to make it past the heat for this category was 1 minute and 57.74 seconds. Vien’s personal record is 1 minute and 58.82 seconds, achieved in 2016.

Hoang is Vietnam’s biggest hope to pass the heat. He will compete in four categories: 200, 400, 800 and 1500 m freestyle. This makes him the first Vietnamese to compete in four Olympic categories.

Hoang’s chances in the 200 and 400 m freestyle are not high, despite recently improved results. He will put his hope on the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle, though they won’t be easy either.

Nguyen Huy Hoang competes at the 2019 SEA Games. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Duong.

Nguyen Huy Hoang competes at the 2019 SEA Games. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Duong.

In the 800 meter freestyle, Hoang claimed the gold medal at Youth Olympics 2018 and broke the national record with 7 minutes and 50.20 seconds. At the 2016 Olympics, this category wasn’t available but in the world championship of 2019, the minimum result needed to make it through the heat was 7 minutes and 48.12 seconds. Therefore, to advance to the final this time, Hoang would most likely have to break his personal record.

Hoang will also have to improve his result in the 1500 meter freestyle if he wants to advance. The minimum result needed to do so at the 2016 Olympics was 14 minutes and 55.40 seconds, while Hoang’s recent result hit 15 minutes and 9.79 seconds. The fact Hoang didn’t compete in months due to Covid-19 might have affected his form.

Dinh Viet Hung, general secretary of Vietnam Aquatic Sports Association, said: "The coaches said Hoang can achieve a result of 14 minutes and 55 seconds in the 1500 meter freestyle. Hoang needs to achieve the best results possible at Olympics 2021 and Asian Games 2022."

The fact Hoang is only 21 and most of the swimmers in the 800 and 1500 m freestyle are already 26 is also an advantage for him.

Hoang will compete in the heat of his categories from July 24 to 30, and Vien on July 27 and 29.

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