Teenager Quang moves towards SEA Games glory, one step at a time

Vietnam have never won a gold medal in the men's walking event at the regional Southeast Asian (SEA) Games despite having previously qualified for the Olympics in the sport.

Teenager Quang moves towards SEA Games glory, one step at a time
Phung Kim Quang competes in the National Athletics Championship in 2020. The teenager expects to win a medal at the SEA Games later this year. Photo courtesy of Phung Kim Quang

Phung Kim Quang is on a mission to change that.

Walking was little more than a blip on the Vietnamese sporting radar until siblings Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc and Nguyen Thanh Ngung pocketed gold and bronze in the women's and men's races at the 25th Games in 2011.

Since then, with better support, Vietnam have dominated the women’s discipline with four titles. However, the men’s crown is still out of the reach despite three silver medals.

Teenager Quang is the big Vietnamese hope in the sport after recording some outstanding performances at recent domestic competitions.

He is the record holder of the junior tournament and in the top three of the national championship. 

Fate

Quang was born in Ba Vi District, in the outskirts of Hanoi, in 2003. 

The naughty little boy loved and played well in all sports such as badminton, shuttlecock, football and track-and-field. After dominating school competitions he became a member of the district athletics team.

Two years later, Quang was among several boys introduced to the walking event, a new sport in the city in 2015. His coach Nguyen Van Toan did not pick him at first but when the team did not have enough athletes, Quang was recruited after a second trial.

But Toan, who coached Pham Thi Thu Trang to the SEA Games women's title in 2019, gradually found the thin boy was suitable for the sport in which posture is of prime importance while arm, shoulder and leg actions must be well controlled to ensure balance.

After four years in the sport, Quang grabbed his first gold at the National Youth Athletics Championship and a bronze in the National Athletics Championship in 2019.

A year later, the 17-year-old defended his title at the junior 5,000m event and set a new record of 23min 14.21sec, 11 seconds than the old record of 23:14.32 by Duong Huu Tin of Nghe An Province in 2013.

“It is a record but I was not very happy. I expected to walk under 22 minutes but the result was more than 23 minutes. I considered it a failure because I could not do it again as I am overage next year,” Quang told Việt Nam News.

 
Teenager Quang moves towards SEA Games glory, one step at a time
Phung Kim Quang (right) poses for photos after winning a bronze medal together with the champion Nguyen Thanh Ngung (centre) and silver holder Vo Van Vinh at the 2020 National Athletics Championship in Hanoi. Photo webthethao.vn

A month later he finished third with a time of 1:37:03 at the National Athletics Championship’s 20km walk.

Despite his strong effort, Quang who suffered a leg injury, could not surpass senior athletes Nguyen Thanh Ngung and Vo Xuan Vinh at the finish line.

“I was really nervous when competing against such experienced rivals although it was my second time. Ngung and Vinh are my seniors and idols. They have won national and international medals,” said Quang.

“However, I have learnt many things from them. From what they knew, they told me how to get better. Ngung used to tell me ‘effort does not make success immediately, but if you try hard you will make it’. I have pinned it in my mind and will work harder to get better. I will find success by the end of the road,” he said.

Despite the third-place finish, Quang has been tipped for a big future.

“We will invest in Quang with an expectation that he will bring home regional and continental victories and even further he could reach world level if possible,” said Lai Phuc Loc, deputy director of the Hanoi Sports and Training Centre.

“We have set plans to send athletes including Quang to compete in open events in Thailand and Singapore (when the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled). Our goal is that Quang will secure a berth in the national team and have a high result in the coming SEA Games,” he added.

It is a huge job for Quang to vie for the national team slot against tough opponents. Ngung has won the national title for 11 years in a row along with a SEA Games bronze and became the first and only Southeast Asian walker to win an Olympic berth in 2016. The Da Nang-based athlete has vowed not to retire until he wins a SEA Games gold.

Vinh is also a big challenge he has finished behind Ngung many times. He has even outperformed Ngung in the SEA Games with three silvers in 2013, 2015 and 2019.

The only thing that Quang has on his side is his youth. He will be 18 while Ngung 29 and Vinh 30 at the coming Games.

“My current result does not push me to the national senior team. But it will be my target now. I will have to improve my strength and technique. I also have to decrease my time because I want not only to be part of the coming big tournament but also win a medal,” Quang said. VNS

The long walk to a gold medal

The long walk to a gold medal

Nguyen Thanh Ngung has become a familiar name in Vietnam’s walking scene, having won gold in the men’s 20km event at the National Athletics Championship for the last 11 years.

Walking queen is back and better

Walking queen is back and better

Back in action after two years, speed-walker Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc proved her worth at the National Championships by taking the title, and now has her sights set on the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines.

 
 

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