Viet Nam News
Khiếu Thanh Hà
HÀ NỘI — “Defeat makes me stronger as I learn a lot for the next competitions,” said Nguyễn Thị Ngoan after a historic gold medal at the Karate 1-Premier League in Halle/Leipzig.
Ngoan was the champion in the women’s 61kg category after overcoming six athletes, including the world winner, to take her title at the one of the most prestigious karate competition in the world on Sunday.
Earlier, she had been defeated in both individual and team event at the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia last month.
Ngoan was eliminated from the semi-finals of the individual match after losing to an Indonesian athlete. In the team event, Việt Nam lost to the hosts.
"I lost to her but I don’t think she was better than me. While in the team battles, we were under pressure from referees leading to our loss. However, it made me more determined for the German tournament. Honestly, if I had not lost in Malaysia I would not have won this wonderful title,” Ngoan told Việt Nam News when she was at a transit airport to fly back home.
“I have learnt a lot of good lessons in preparation for the K1 tournament although I had only two weeks to practise intensively,” she said.
In Leipzig, there were 98 martial artists competing in Ngoan’s category.
She was lucky to get a bye in the first match. She then beat Kandemir Zehra (of Turkey) 1-0, Kornfeld Noemie (Switzerland) 2-0, Orbon Joane (the US) 3-0 and Heurtault Leila (France) 1-0.
In the semi-finals, Ngoan faced world defending champion Alisa Buchinger of Austria.
Ngoan had no difficulty in winning 2-0 and advance to the final.
Older and bigger
“She is older than me and looked bigger than me but when the match started I felt she was not a difficult rival. It seemed that fighting with her was easier than the final,” said the 19-year-old.
“I had no idea who she was until after the match. When people told me about her position both my coach and me were surprised because there was nothing special. However, it was good for me because not knowing anything about her helped me compete without a worry,” she said.
The win against the world champion, however, was a push for Ngoan, making her more confident in the gold medal match.
“In the final next day, I was ready for the title because Jumaa Haya of Canada is not a well-known athlete. It was partly because of my semi-final win.”
Ngoan led 1-0 in the first two rounds. Haya secured three points in the third set to lead 3-1. However, the Canadian made four mistakes through the match and then was sent off when there were 23 seconds left, announcing Ngoan as the winner.
“There was only two minutes for the round. At the same time, I had to think about how to fight and listen to my advice from my coach. I was wondering how I could beat her with just 23 seconds left because I needed to score at least two points to draw first. I created more attacks and forced her out of the map for the fourth time. And I made it,” Ngoan said.
“I can say I was lucky to win a gold because if she had been more watchful she would not have made such mistakes and I would not have won. People said it was a historic victory. I am happy but I do not think it was such a huge achievement,” said Ngoan who has been practicing karate for seven years.
The K1 tournament has different legs. Ngoan, from Sơn Tây Town on the outskirts of Hà Nội, took part in the Dubai leg in April and secured a bronze.
It is one of the tournaments where athletes could collect points to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“The gold medal is a historic title for Việt Nam, as it is the first time our martial artist of kumite (combat) has won in this prestigious tournament,” said Vũ Sơn Hà, head of Karate Department of the National Sports Administration.
Earlier, Việt Nam’s Nguyễn Hoàng Ngân took a silver and a gold but they were in the kata (performance) event.
“We have listed Ngoan as the athlete with the most potential in karate. She is in good form and has a skilful technique. Her only disadvantage is her inner strength which she must improve by competing in international competitions,” said Hà.
“Ngoan has been named as one of Việt Nam’s key athletes who has a strong chance of winning at the Asian Games (ASIAD) next year and the Olympics in 2020. She has had some remarkable achievements in the last two years, which make us believe that she will go further.”
Sơn said Ngoan’s win in Germany was partly due to her rival’s mistakes but none could deny that her strong attacks caused Haya to make these mistakes.
“The K1 gold marks a turning point in Ngoan’s career, in Việt Nam’s karate history and will be her strength for her success at the ASIAD in Indonesia,” said Sơn, adding that Việt Nam had to wait nearly a decade for the second gold (in general) in this tournament after Ngân’s victory in 2008.
Ngoan who practices karate because as a child she loved kungfu and liked to fight is also being looked at as Việt Nam’s medal hope at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Ngoan is a good athlete but she is still young. She needs more competitions to grow. We really hope she can break through and win a berth for Tokyo although the route would be very bumpy as it is the first time karate has been organised in the Olympics and there are only 80 berths, 20 in kata and 60 in kumite, for which all countries will be vying for,” Hà said.
Before checking-in for her flight to Hà Nội on Monday, Ngoan said the K1 gold medal was not her final target.
“I am heading for bigger tournaments. I do not force myself to reach any specific goal. I just want to keep my mind relaxed and fight as well as I can. (ASIAD) is a big competition and many strong opponents will attend. I will have to work hard and try my best,” said Ngoan who has won three gold medals at the Asian championships for youth, three titles at the Southeast Asian tournaments and many golds at the national events.
Ngoan, who stood fourth in the world championship in Germany last year, will next take part in the world youth tournament next month in Spain.
“My technique is as good as the rest of the world athletes. What I lack is confidence and focus during competitions, which they have in plenty. That is something Vietnamese athletes in general, and I in particular, have not yet managed to achieve. I have to focus on improving these characters,” she said. — VNS