When she won the Asian championship title in 2018, Truong Thi Kim Tuyen dreamed an Olympic dream.
|Truong Thi Kim Tuyen of Vietnam (right) kicks out at Fariza Aldangorova of Kazakhstan during the semi-finals of the women's U49kg category at the Asian Qualification Tournament for Tokyo Games in Amman, Jordan, on May 21. — Photo courtesy of World Taekwondo|
Three years later, the fighter made it and has qualified for the Tokyo Games this summer, bringing Vietnamese taekwondo back onto the world's biggest stage after nearly a decade.
In the Asian qualifiers last month, Tuyen, one of two Vietnamese representatives, defeated three rivals to become one of two finalists in the women's 49kg category. It was enough for her to clinch an Olympic slot.
"I am really happy with this result. It's deserving after my labour for many years. It is a big thanks to my coaches and friends who strongly support me," said the 24-year-old.
Rural girl who fights
Born in 1997 in the southern province of Vinh Long's Long Ho District, Tuyen has been practising taekwondo for 10 years.
Tuyen is the youngest in a four-member family that earns a living through rambutan and rice farming.
While all of her siblings, who are much older than her, have to work to help their parents, Tuyen was asked to focus on her studies.
One day when his youngest daughter said she wanted to try martial arts, her father Truong Van Hat agreed to the strange and expensive request.
Tuyen was encouraged to try taekwondo as her father believed that the protective gear would prevent his daughter from suffering injuries.
Her passion and talent made Tuyen, who has speed, strength, accuracy and a tactical mind, an outstanding trainee at her club.
After many years scouting for the provincial sports department, coach Le Tran Thuy Tran understood that she had found a "treasure".
"Her parents did not agree when I talked about bringing Tuyen to the province's training centre to be a professional athlete. I told them Tuyen was a talent and she had potential to be a big athlete in the future," Tran recalled.
"I had to come back again and again, persuading and analysing a lot before receiving their approval. It was great that she proved herself with a gold medal at the Mekong Delta regional championship and another at the national youth tournament in the first year," she said.
The 14-year-old was immediately elevated to the national team which meant Tran had to go back to Hat for permission again.
"It was not simple as at the provincial centre where she could return home at the weekend. Being a national team member means she would leave her parents and live an independent life," said Tran who then sent Tuyen to Da Nang's National Sports Training Centre 3.
The day Tuyen left was the first time that both she and her parents saw an aeroplane at HCM City's Tan Son Nhat Airport. But since then, flights have been part of her life with competitions around the world.
|Truong Thi Kim Tuyen poses with her gold medal of the women's U49kg category at the Asian Qualification Tournament for Tokyo Games in Amman, Jordan, on May 21. — Photo courtesy of World Taekwondo|
Tears fell when Tuyen flew away but a bright future was waiting for her.
The unbeaten girl dominated not only the national tournament but also the Southeast Asian Games as she won the regional competition's 46kg class in her debut in 2015 at the age of 18.
Months later she took an international title and was voted the best athlete at the Morocco Open which is one of the most prestigious events in taekwondo.
She also pocketed titles from the Asian youth championship and a bronze from the Asian championship in 2016.
Her success left Tuyen self-satisfied. Five months after her triumph in Morocco, Tuyen was defeated in the semi-finals of the Olympics’ qualification Asian zone, meaning she missed out on a spot at the 2016 Rio Games, as only two fighters from the tournament qualified.
Fortunately, she used the loss to rebound in 2017 and brought home six medals from international competitions, including a silver from the world championship in South Korea.
The silver was a milestone point as the first world level medal in history for Vietnamese taekwondo.
In 2019, Tuyen grabbed titles from the ASEAN Open, Greece Open and Serbia Open. Her performance at the Grand Prix Moscow 2019 did not help put her in the top three but she showed her advanced technique before losing 11-9 to world champion Sim Jae-young who was born in South Korea, the centre of the taekwondo world.
According to Nguyen Le Dung, head of Vinh Long Sports and Culture Department's Taekwondo Section, Tuyen is a star of the province and national sport and has more success ahead of her.
2020 saw most tournaments cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuyen could not enjoy her usual intensive training courses or international competitions. She feared missing the Olympics again as the Asian qualification event in Jordan in May was the last chance for Vietnam.
But Tuyen performed spectacularly to be a finalist in her class to take an Olympic slot but also beat Su Po-ya of Chinese Taipei in the final to win gold.
It is her first time at the competition and Vietnam's fifth time sending a taekwondo athlete.
|Truong Thi Kim Tuyen (left) is one of Vietnam athletes at the coming Olympics. She will also a key athlete to participate at this winner SEA Games in Hanoi. — Photo kenh14.vn|
The world No 13 Tuyen is now in Lebanon for the Asian championship which will be her final test ahead of Tokyo in July.
Tuyen is hoped to bring Vietnam another medal after her Tran Hieu Ngan's silver at the Sydney Olympics 21 years ago.
"The first SEA Games title strengthened my belief with the martial art. The world silver medal was the most memorable result as it was my first time at the worlds. The Olympic berth is my dream," said Tuyen.
“As an athlete, everyone hopes to be an Olympian once in their life. Me too. I will work harder for that and even harder for a medal,” said Tuyen.
Source: Vietnam News
Vietnam’s taekwondo fighters are aiming for at least one slot at the coming Olympics in Tokyo.