HA NOI — Teenager Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, 16, is the country's youngest athlete at the Olympics, and while she is just beginning to realise her great potential in the pool, she will be a swimmer to watch in London.
|High hopes: Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, 16, is the youngest Vietnamese athlete at the London Olympics. The Vietnamese swimmer will take part in the women's 200m backstroke and 400m medley events. — VNS Photo Ngan Binh
She is also the first ever Vietnamese to earn an official Olympic berth in history.
Vien's recent training programme in the US saw her take part in many tournaments, where she achieved remarkable results.
At the USA Swimming Series' Indianapolis Grand Prix in March, she reached the Olympic B standard in the women's 200m backstroke with a time of 2min 15.15sec.
Vien also managed a surprisingly strong showing at the Southeast Asian Swimming Championships in Singapore in June. In the women's 200m backstroke event, she clocked a time of 2:13.84, more than 2sec better than the Olympic B standard. Then she finished in a time of 4:50.27 to beat the Olympic B Standard by 1.48sec in the women's 400m freestyle.
Thanks to these results, Vien was one of five swimmers from the region qualifying to participate in the Olympics.
According to the Viet Nam Aquatic Sports Association (VASA) General Secretary Dinh Viet Hung, Vien doesn't have much chance of winning a medal at the Olympics because her fastest times are still much slower than Melissa Franklin, who tops the FINA rankings with a time of 2:06.12 set at the USA Olympic Team Trials in May. However, she is in the top five Asian swimmers and can dream of a medal at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea.
Way to Olympics
Born in the northern province of Can Tho, Vien started to swim at the age of three. When she was 11, her talent was discovered at the Can Tho City's Sports Festival. She then began training at the Army's Defence Sports Centre in the city.
Viet Nam national swimming coach Dang Anh Tuan said she has the strength and character to be a leading swimmer. "When I suggested adding Vien to the national squad, some experts thought it was a joke. At that time she was 14 and did not have any big achievements under her belt."
Tuan's confidence in the little girl brought a result. After a short time training with national athletes, Vien began winning a steady stream of medals from 2011. She took gold medals in all 10 events and set seven records at the National Age Group Swimming Championships in May. One month later, she earned six golds, broke two records and was crowned the best athlete at the Southeast Asia Age Group Swimming Championships in Da Nang City.
At the 26th Southeast Asia Games in Indonesia last year, the swimmer received two silver medals in the women's 400m medley and 400m backstroke events.
In London, she will compete in the women's 400m medley event today and in the women's 200m backstroke event next Thursday. — VNS