The first Vietnamese athlete to clinch a spot in the country’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics team, swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang then suffered the disappointment of seeing the world’s largest sporting event delayed by a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is the first Olympics of my career!” theathlete, born in 2000, said in a rare talk to the press. “After smashing the2019 SEA Games record in the Philippines, I increased my training to 20km a daywith the ultimate goal of earning a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. So youcan imagine how much I was disappointed at the announcement that the Games werepostponed until 2021.”
However, the ambitious athlete showed understanding tothe decision, calling it “right” and “for the people’s health”.
“The Olympics are a great event, but they are onlydelayed - not cancelled. I’m still young, so opportunities are still ahead. Itmight even be good for me, as I will have another year to train and improve.”
Keep dreaming, keep training
"I first wanted to compete at the Games when my olderteammate Nguyen Thi Anh Vien swam at the 2016 Rio Olympics,” Hoang went on. “SoI was very happy to hear that I had reached the A standard for the 2020 TokyoOlympics. This is what athletes around the world hope for.”
To make a splash at the Olympics and the 31st SEAGames, he has been following a strict daily training schedule from 7am to 10amand 1pm to 4.30pm.
Though the two events are scheduled to take place inthe same year, Hoang said he wasn’t overly concerned because the more he tries,the stronger he will become.
“For me, the busy schedule is not an obstacle. Quitethe opposite - it will actually help me train better and go the extra mile.”
He doesn’t believe in fate, and never believes he wasborn to shine like his name - Huy Hoang (Glory).
“I think success comes from perseverance and hardwork,” he said. “I personally have no secret other than training every singleday.
“I know I don’t have any physical advantage, so Ialways tell myself to redouble my efforts and overcome any weaknesses.
“I believe that if I have done my best but the outcomeis not what’s expected then I should not lose heart. Failure is not theopposite of success. It’s just part of success.
“Keep training, and the hard work will pay off.”
Loneliness vs Glory
Hoang says he has no secret other than training every single day.
"Swimming is very lonely,” Hoang explained. “Unlikesports on land, there is only you in the water, swimming up and down the lane.”
Even on land, he is able to visit home only once ayear, as a large portion of his time is spent on training.
“I’ve chosen this path, however, so I spare no effortsin reaching further and higher.”
However, the athlete said swimming was actually nothis childhood dream. “I never really thought I would become a swimmer.Everything that has happened so far is beyond my expectations.”
He has been living far from home since he was in Grade6, training as an elite athlete.
“At that time, I just thought swimming was good for myhealth. I was too young to envisage any future career.”
Along his journey to becoming a professional swimmer,Hoang has encountered tremendous difficulties.
“Learning to swim at this level is difficult, butimproving is even more challenging,” he said, adding that a swimming careerrequires a lot of patience and persistence, and any glory today is a result ofconstant effort yesterday.
“In my mind, I always think that I have to work harderand harder to achieve more.”
Recalling his most unforgettable memory, when he firstswam in a regional tournament at the age of 12, Hoang said he was quite shockedand a little dazed because most of his rivals were much bigger than he was.
“At that time, though, I was too young to dwell onit,” he recalled. “I just thought about how they could swim so incredibly fast.And when the time came, I just dived into the pool and swam.”
Hoang conceded that as he grew older, he felt somefear at the Southeast Asia Age Group Swimming Championships in 2015 and theSoutheast Asian Games in 2017.
“I really was nervous at major events like these,because I had to swim against strong opponents. But when I began competing, Isomehow managed to turn my fear into a strength.”
He revealed that he could learn so much from the otherswimmers, especially to fight no matter the circumstances are.
“I’ve become fearless,” Hoang said. “Whether I succeedor fail, I learn a lot from my rivals. They are the most influential people inmy career.”
From humble to incredible
Hoang (M) brings home gold at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.
Born into a fishing family near the Gianh River in thecentral province of Quang Binh, Hoang started learning to swim when he was only3 years old.
His father remembered he would play all day in thewater “like a duck” and swimming from one side of the river to the other becamepart of his daily life. Meanwhile, villagers often called him “otter”, becausehe was so good at swimming and very dark skinned.
Hoang has conquered a lot of challenges at regionaland international events for someone so young.
At last year’s FINA World Championship in Gwangju inthe Republic of Korea, he finished the men’s 800 metre freestyle with a time of7.52.74.
The time met the Olympic Standard A of 7.54.31, butwas still short of his personal best of 7.50.20 at the 2018 Summer YouthOlympics in Argentina when he won gold.
Hoang also bagged gold in the men’s 1,500 metresfreestyle at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
He later made history in Vietnamese swimming at the2018 Asian Games, winning one silver and one bronze.
The silver was considered “as valuable as gold” as hisolder Chinese rival was one of the top swimmers in the world - a three-timeOlympic winner and nine-time world champion.
The sky’s the limit
Despite his incredible achievements at such a youngage, the swimmer never stops trying to reach further and higher.
He doesn’t put a limit on anything, and the more heworks the more he gains.
“To go further, I think we should never be too hard onourselves,” he said. “Take it easy and focus on the effort.”
All he can do is work hard every day to hone hisskills and psychological power - the two decisive factors in winning not onlyat the Olympic Games.
“Before my races I always encourage myself to staycalm, optimistic, and do my best,” Hoang said. “But I don’t think I have to winall the time. Winning or losing doesn’t matter as much as giving your best.”
“In sport, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.But the game goes on,” the athlete concluded with a broad smile on his face./.VNA
Trinh Linh Ha
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