Vietnam’s top long jumper Bui Thi Thu Thao is about to become a mother, but she already has her sights set on competing next year.
|Bui Thi Thu Thao will return to compete next year. — Photo nld.com.vn|
With all sports affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes have been forced to train a lot with no competitions on the horizon. But for Thao, she's been able to focus on preparing to be a mother.
Earlier, Thao withdrew from the 30th Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines last year as she needed to spend time treating a hip injury and preparing for motherhood.
“It was lucky for me as I asked to stopped from the competition in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic so there aren't any important events this year,” Thao told Việt Nam News.
Since she fell pregnant, Thao reduced heavy exercise and her job as a coach at the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Centre has been rearranged so that her health isn't impacted.
“I am very happy to be a mother. I have been dedicated to sports for many years, so now it is the time for my small family,” said Thao who got married four years ago.
Despite being only 28 years old, Thao has 14 years of track and field experience and is one of the most successful female long jumpers in the history of Vietnamese athletics.
In 2017, Thao won a gold medal at the Asian championship, two others at the Asian Grand Prix and one title at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia, recording her personal best of 6.68m.
At the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games held in Turkmenistan, Thao claimed a silver medal, with a long jump of 6.36m.
At the Asian Games 2018 in Indonesia, Thao also surprised professionals by winning a gold medal with a 6.55m jump. At the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship in Tehran, Iran, in 2018, she also brought the home gold medal.
These successes brought Thao many honours, including Female Athlete of the Year at the Victory Cup, the sports Oscars in Vietnam in 2017 and 2018.
Those successes are the result of the hard work of more than a decade, with silent sacrifices like getting married but having to postpone motherhood to serve the national team.
|Long jump champion Bui Thi Thu Thao and her husband. Photo Facebook of Bui Thi Thu Thao|
Although Thao is about to have a baby, she still plans to compete again.
“I will return to compete in the upcoming SEA Games next year,” she told Việt Nam News.
The girl from the mountainous district of Ba Vi in Hanoi said she can return to training early next year and she hopes to regain her form and vie for the gold medal at the region's biggest sporting event, set to be held in Hanoi.
Thao’s plan to give birth and return to sports is similar to runner Nguyen Thi Huyen, who returned to the 400m after a year off to give birth and took two SEA Games gold medals last year in the women’s 400m and 400m hurdle.
Thao is a strong example of overcoming difficult circumstances to pursue a passion for sports.
She was born in a poor family in Dong Thai Commune, Ba Vi District. As a kid, she used to help her parents bind bricks and grow rice.
|Long jump champion Bui Thi Thu Thao seen at her house in Ba Vi District. Photo Facebook of Bui Thi Thu Thao|
She showed her talent in sports like swimming and badminton.
When she was 14, former head coach of the national athletics team Nguyen Trong Ho saw Thao compete at a provincial tournament and selected her for the athletics team of Ha Tay Province (now part of Hanoi).
In the early days of training for the provincial track and field team, Thao was depressed at having left home and finding herself struggle at long-distance running.
Thao quit sports at one point but a month later, Ho and her father persuaded her to return to training.
Although Thao lacks the ideal height of a long jump athlete (1.65m), she has remarkable power and a strong will to compete. These special qualities have helped her progress and rise to the top spot in many domestic and international tournaments.
A few years ago, Thao's father suddenly fell seriously ill, making him no longer the main breadwinner of the house. Now, Thao is driven to win medals and awards to pay for home repairs and her father's treatment.
During her years as an athlete, Thao also surprised many people by her ability to handle life on her own. She sold sweet potatoes, eggs, then opened a restaurant to earn more.
Thao is not afraid of it of hard work and proudly posts photos of herself selling sweet potatoes on her Facebook page and delivering them personally so that her family has more money for Lunar New Year holiday.
She once sold more than 1.5 tonnes of sweet potatoes in just a few days and earned the nickname "sweet potato champion". VNS
No 1 long jumper Bui Thi Thu Thao has asked to withdraw from the coming 30th Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines.