July, 27 2012 09:57:00

Vietnamese girl remains calm before the big day

Tough task: Van Ngoc Tu will be the first Vietnamese athlete to compete in this year's games. — VNS Photo Quang Thang
HA NOI — Winning her berth by accident, Van Ngoc Tu will be the first Vietnamese judo martial artist in 16 years to participate in the Olympics.

She has almost no chance against strong rivals, but hopes to take herself up a level.

Tu had been top athlete in the women's under-48kg category of the Asian qualifiers for months and was the top candidate for an official berth at the Games.

However, after poor performances at the point-making tournament last August, Tu was left behind by Alexandra Podryadova from Kazakhstan.

Tu and her coaches worried because organisers closed the competitors' list while there was only one tournament left.

During her intensive training for the last competition, Tu received the good news that she had been awarded the sole ticket after Podryadova failed to make her national team.

According to the International Judo Federation, a nation can only choose one athlete from the qualifying round to compete in London, and Kazakhstan decided to give the ticket to Issanova Gulzhan who will compete in the women's 78kg pool.

After a draw yesterday in London, Tu will compete against Sarah Menezes of Brazil in the first round match tomorrow.

Currently third in the world in judo, Menezes aims to become the first Brazilian woman to win an individual gold medal at an Olympic Games.

According to organisers, there are 19 rivals in this category, including defending champion Alina Dumitru of Romania and bronze medallist Paula Pareto from Argentina.

Tu's personal best was a bronze medal at the Asian championships last year. However the Vietnamese is comfortable and prepared.

Since her ticket was assured, she has taken part in many tournaments to gain experience as well as two training courses in China and South Korea to upgrade her techniques.

According to coach Le Duy Hai, Tu has made big steps in skills and competition spirit. After arriving London, she is adapting quickly to the climate and training facilities.

Tu is the only judo athlete from the Southeast Asian region competing in this event. She is also the only female fighter from the region.

Two men from the Philippines (Tomohiko Hoshina) and Thailand (Teerawat Homklin) will compete in the over-100kg category. — VNS

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