Talented Ngọc Yến kicks on in sepak takraw

November 26, 2023 - 08:43
Teenager Trần Ngọc Yến has secured nearly all the most prestigious titles for a player, from the national event to the world championships.

Sepak takraw

Trần Ngọc Yến (centre) makes a santo to score during the quadrant (team of four) final between Việt Nam vs Indonesia at the 19th Asian Games in October in China. Yến scored the most points in Việt Nam's 2-1 win to take gold. VNS Photo Quý Lượng

Thanh Hà

Aged 19 Trần Ngọc Yến is already a key player on the national sepak takraw (kick volleyball) team.

The teen has secured nearly all the most prestigious titles for a player, from the national event to the world championships. With her outstanding performance in 2023, Yến has become a favoured nominee on the list for Best Female Player of the Year.

She is also a candidate for the Best Young Athlete of the Year and Teammate of the Year for the Victory Cup, a national award to honour sportspersons for their achievements locally and internationally.

Whether she wins or not, no one would bet against Yến being one of the country's sporting treasures in the future.

Talented player

Born in 2004 in Đồng Tháp Province, Yến caught the eyes of the local sepak takraw scouts when she was 11 years old.

Trần Ngọc Yến serves the ball during the quadrant (team of four) final between Việt Nam vs Indonesia. After winning tournaments at all levels, Yến has become one of the best strikers in the world of sepak takraw. — VNS Photo Quý Lượng

"In our first meet, I saw great potential in her. She impressed us with her good body shape, as 1.55m tall at age 11, she had long legs and a slim and agile body," said coach Phan Minh Triết.

"Such a body is ideal for sepak takraw. Later on, she also scored high points in our basic tests and was selected."

Despite the advantage, Yến encountered many difficulties on her first day practising. It was so difficult that there were times she wanted to give up. Only help and encouragement from coaches kept her with the team.

Gradually, she managed and got better results that nurtured her passion for the sport in which players use their feet, knees, shoulders, chest and head to guide and control a small rattan ball.

"The more I practise, the more I want to play and the better results I get. This made me fall in love with sepak takraw," she said.

Trần Ngọc Yến (2nd left) and her teammates celebrate their championship title at the 19th Asian Games. — VNS Photo Quý Lượng

“After four years, I have made progress in my technique. Taking part in tournaments, I discovered my weaknesses and my strong points so that I could improve and reach my peak."

She played a key role in helping Đồng Tháp win one gold and one silver each at the National Youth Sepak Takraw Championship in 2018 and 2019.

A year later, Đồng Tháp continued dominating the youth championship, and she won golds in the U16 doubles and team of four categories.

Yến was very young, but she had good technique. Her biggest limitation was her lack of experience. If she keeps working hard, she will be the future of the provincial and national sepak takraw teams.

It was no surprise that the teenager was called to the national team in 2020. Two years later, she won different tournaments before becoming a world champion in Thailand, the home of sepak takraw.

Top striker

According to the national team coaches, the 1.75m tall Yến has a good physique, resilience, and coordination. She is suitable for the right attacking position. The young striker is also appreciated for her enthusiastic competitive spirit, inspiring teammates with her passion and constant efforts in training.

Trần Ngọc Yến in action in a match against the world strongest sepak takraw team of Thailand at the 31st SEA Games in 2022. — VNS Photo Quý Lượng

“I first saw her when she was 14, and knew she was a talented player. I saw her natural qualities," said coach Trần Thị Vui.

"My team was in the process of rejuvenation and Yến would be one of our key players. Since she joined the national team, she has grown up strongly. She was brave and knew how to overcome pressure to win. Now, she is a versatile athlete with good serve skills, and diverse attacking abilities. Her long and strong legs make her a threat to any opponent."

2023 would be the most successful year for Yến, as she pocketed a huge collection of medals.

Together with teammates, she took a gold at the 32nd SEA Games in May. One month later, they claimed two golds at the Asian championship. They then defended the world title in July before taking one gold and one silver from the Asian Games in October.

Among these achievements, the Asian Games victory was the most emotional, as Yến and teammates lifted Việt Nam to the top of the podium after 17 years of waiting.

Việt Nam came from behind to beat Indonesia in a dramatic team-of-four final.

Trần Ngọc Yến (left) has been nominated as Best Female Players of 2023 along with two other categories of the annual national Victory Cup. — VNS Photo Quý Lượng

Yến had a classy performance with extremely impressive and unplayable attacks, bringing home a convincing win.

"I was inspired by the gold that my senior teammates won at the 2006 Asian Games. The first-ever title from the continental competition was a strong motivation for me and my teammates when we prepared for the China Games," said Yến.

"Since my first day on the national team, every member dreamed and set a target to achieve this result. And we made it to the 19th Games this year. I am really pleased with our achievement in 2023, especially the Asian Games gold, as it was our top mission of the year."

However, the leggy teen athlete is hungry for more, and said there were still many mistakes that made her unsatisfied with her performance in the final. She wants to fix all these errors so that she and the team have a chance to go on and dominate future tournaments. VNS