|Hoàng Nguyên Thanh (right) and Hoàng Thị Ngọc Hoa are Việt Nam's marathon hopes at the 31st SEA Games in mid May. — Photo tienphong.vn|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam are on top of the region in athletics but marathon running has never been a strong point.
Duo Hoàng Nguyên Thanh and Hoàng Thị Ngọc Hoa want to change that at the upcoming SEA Games.
Born and trained in the southern provine of Bình Phước, the current national best marathon hub in Việt Nam, both runners confirm their No 1 position after winning in men’s and women’s events at the National Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon in March in Côn Đảo Island.
It was the third year in a row that Thanh took the men’s category title, while Hoa returned to the top after a defeat last year.
They are now preparing for their biggest task of the year -- the SEA Games.
“Successfully defending my national championship is a strong push for me ahead of the SEA Games,” Thanh told Việt Nam News.
“Although I could not break my personal record as planned but the time of 2 hours 41 minutes in the hot weather and difficult track in Côn Đảo was acceptable.”
Thanh loved athletics from an early age and trained to be an athlete since a little boy. He took part in the national championship since 2012 but did not win a title.
During that time he was member of the national team taking part in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore where he earned a bronze, the best result of Vietnamese men’s class.
However, after a severe leg injury in 2017, Thanh, who was expected to get higher result at the Malaysian SEA Games in the same year, quit running.
“Watching people running, I knew that running was my fate and decided to run again in 2019. Two years rest made me to start from zero but I am happy with challenges,” said Thanh.
|Hoàng Nguyên Thanh celebrates his win at the Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon in March. — Photo tienphong.vn|
It took him one year of intensive training and he proved power winning the 2020 and 2021 season, setting his personal best of 2:26.56 last year. That result was close to 30th SEA Games gold medal by Indonesian Prayogo Agus (2:26.00).
He said: “My target now is the SEA Games gold medal. It is a special SEA Games that I will run on my country.
"I will receive strong support of my people, friends and family. They are strong encouragement for me.”
Thanh, who moved to Hà Nội to get familiar with race track in late April, added: “I also hope to set up a new national record this time. The old one of 2:21.51 by my senior Lê Chí Đông has existed for 19 years. If I can make one of these or both, it would be a miracle.”
While the hot weather in May in Hà Nội will be a big challenge for all athletes, a huge cash bonus has been offered to stimulate Vietnamese marathoners.
Former deputy chairman of HCM City’s District 1 People’s Committee Đoàn Ngọc Hải promised to give a biggest ever VNĐ1 billion (US$43,560) for a male runner who can set a new national record at the SEA Games.
“The bonus, mobilised from enterprises and my friends and my own budget, is to uplift their spirit and complete dream of millions of running fans, breaking the current record,” Hải said.
Thanh said his main rivals will be those from Thailand and Indonesia whose best results were better than his.
“They are really tough," 7-year-old Thanh said.
"They are stronger; more experienced and have competed in a range of international tournaments recently. Beating them is not an easy task. But I believe in myself. I have well prepared and will try my best for national pride.”
While the Vietnamese men could only win a bronze in the SEA Games, the women did better job.
Phạm Thị Hồng Lệ took a bronze in the previous Games in the Philippines. Her teammate Hoàng Thị Thanh, the national record holder, secured a silver in the 2017 Games in Malaysia.
Earlier, bare-foot runner Phạm Thị Bình won a gold in the 2013 Games in Myanmar. And this is the best marathon result of Việt Nam today.
In the next two weeks, Hoàng Thi Ngọc Hoa hopes to see her name light up the winners' board.
|Hoàng Thị Ngọc Hoa (right) runs at the Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon in March. — Photo tienphong.vn|
She first won the national championship in 2020 after running professionally for four years. She could not defend her title the following year but her hard working and strong determination helped her to make the top podium in March.
“I have almost no secrets just hard work and trying to do everything with my best efforts. I think, these would help not only me but everybody,” Hoa told Việt Nam News.
Hoa’s gold medal result was 2:53.56 and her personal record is 2:49.23, all are better than 30th SEA Games’ top two of the Philippines.
They are Christine Hallasgo (2:56.56) and Mary Joy Tabal (2:58.49) who also compete in Hà Nội this month.
“My small stature may be a disadvantage when I compete in the Games, but I will make up the gap through hard work and fixing errors to improve my result,” 22-year-old Hoa said.
“I have set a target to be the highest on the podium at this Games.”
Track-and-field competitions will take place from May 14-19 at the Mỹ Đình National Stadium, comprising 47 events. Marathon is scheduled for the last day. Nearly 230 amateur runners will run alongside the elite competitors for the first time ever. — VNS