Viet Nam News
Khiếu Thanh Hà
HÀ NỘI — He is the most special case of the Việt Nam Team at the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia.
People never believed that Bùi Văn Đông would become the champion of the regional biennial tournament which concluded last month.
The 22-year-old was an unknown to local fans before the SEA Games.
The team’s Chef de Mission Trần Đức Phấn decided to add him to the list in the final moments after he made a jump of 7.89m at an international tournament in HCM City.
Phấn said his result, which was a new national record, was better than SEA Games’ gold medal and believed that Đông could shine in Malaysia.
Supanara Sukhasvasti of Thailand could make it 7.75m to triumph in Singapore two years ago.
Đông had never thought he would see another opportunity in Malaysia after that most successful result and years of practicing.
“No, I did not give the SEA Games a second thought because at that time the final list of athletes was complete and my senior teammates had already packed their baggage,” Đông said to Việt Nam News.
“I was excited to hear the news when I was in the room after training. It was a mixed feeling of happiness and worry,” Đông recalled.
Đông was the last member of the delegation. It was just five days before the track-and-field team left for the tournament.
In Malaysia, there were 11 athletes in the long jump event.
Đông was pitted against defending champion Sukhasvasti, and potential rivals Suwandi Wijaya of Indonesia and Janry Ubas from the Philippines.
After the first jump, Đông was in first place with a result of 7.64m, Ubas jumped 7.55m, Wijaya made 7.27 and Sukhasvasti 7.22m.
All athletes failed to improve on their scores in the second jump.
Đông even failed in the next two attempts. He made mistakes and his result was not recognised.
At the same time, Wijaya went ahead. He jumped 7.78m to replace Đông in the lead.
“I was a little bit nervous when he was ranked above me. My heart beat hard before the fifth jump but it could not stop my determination. I had set a target of being in the top three, but when competing I told myself I could lose to him, and I jumped.
“It was a perfect jump of 7.83m. It was not my best result but it was a dream come true. I was on the top podium, so what could make me happier than that?” asked Đông who became the first Vietnamese to win a long jump title in SEA Games. He also marked it as a new record.
In the past, Việt Nam’s best result has been two silvers by Nguyễn Văn Mùa in 2003 and Nguyễn Văn Lâm in 2015.
In Malaysia, Wijaya took a silver, Ubas was at third while Sukhasvasti was out of top three.
The Vietnamese, who was the shortest among all competitors, was congratulated by past champions who had won two, six, and eight years ago.
“He is tiny but is really powerful with a special rebound,” said Dương Đức Thủy, head of Việt Nam Athletics Department of the National Sports Administration.
“He is one of the two young athletes from Việt Nam competing with impressive results on their debut,” he said.
"I hope that in the near future Đông will be the first to jump longer than eight metres.”
Born in Quốc Oai District in Hà Nội in 1995, Đông became interested in athletics, especially long jump, as a 14-year-old in 2009.
His parents objected because they thought the little boy was too small to practice. But they finally agreed because they saw his love for jumping.
It took Đông five years to mark the first achievement when he won and set a new record at the national youth athletics championships in 2014. His new bar of 7.36m beat the old one of 7.33m.
By the end of that year, he secured a bronze medal at the National Sports Games. A few months later, he grabbed a gold at the HCM City International Athletics Open with a jump of 7.62m.
A year later, Đông won a silver at the national tournament and a bronze of an relay event at the Asian Beach Games last year. He was called to take part in the HCM City International Athletics Open in July.
“My focus was on that event. My coach prepared me to show my best at that time. It was great that I won and thanks to that I was picked for the SEA Games. What’s a dream!” he said.
Đông will now focus on the National Athletics Championships which will be organised next month in HCM City.
“I have no detailed plan yet. I will just try my best with an open mind. I think it would be the best way to achieve the highest result,” Đông said. — VNS