|HOPES OF A NATION: Hoàng Thị Ngọc Hoa is expected to shine in the women's marathon. Photo courtesy of Tiền Phong Marathon|
HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese marathon runners are hoping to do better on home soil than they have in recent years at the SEA Games.
The marathon is a highly-competitive event at the regional Games, with powerhouses Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand all hoping to do well. Although Việt Nam topped the team’s rankings in track and field in various editions of the Games, the marathon is not always a 'golden' category like the short or medium runs.
In this year’s Games, the Vietnamese marathon team registered two athletes in each event with a desire to bring home gold medals.
The veteran Phạm Thị Hồng Lệ is set to compete at the 10,000m event in which she is the national record holder. Meanwhile, Hoàng Thị Ngọc Hoa from the southern province of Bình Phước and Phạm Thị Huệ from the northern province of Quảng Ninh will represent Việt Nam in the women's marathon.
Hoa is now Việt Nam’s big hope of winning its first Games women's marathon gold medal since 2013. She is the reigning champion of the Tiền Phong Marathon national championship 2022, which was held in Côn Đảo, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu in late March, with a time of 2:53.56.
Hoa was born in 2000 in the southern province of Bình Phước. Growing up and playing near Bà Rá Mountain, which is 736m high and the third highest mountain in the south, she was naturally fit, familiar with the terrain and gradually improved her physical strength.
“I have set a target to be the highest on the podium at this Games,” Hoa said.
Meanwhile, Huệ, gold medalist of the women’s 10,000m at the Games 30, is fully prepared for the competition.
On April 10, she finished a tournament in the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế with a time of 2:50.33. Her result was better than that of 2:56.56 by Philipino Christine Hallasgo, who won gold at the Games 30.
On the men’s side, the representatives will be Hoàng Nguyên Thanh and Lê Văn Tuấn.
Thanh, born in 1995, is considered the “King of Bà Rá Mountain.” He resumed training with a team in Bình Phước Province in August 2019. He has bagged various prizes at the Pocari Sweat Run, Cần Thơ Heritage Marathon, and Techcombank HCM City Marathon 2019, with a record of 2:29.29.
“I strongly evaluate the opponents at the Games because they have honed their skills a lot in international events. I also know the achievements of Thai and Indonesian athletes. I highly appreciate them and look forward to competing against them," Thanh said.
Meanwhile, Tuấn is also a notable athlete with impressive performances at domestic marathon tournaments.
Coach Trần Đoàn Minh Thiện said: “Being at home, with the support of a large number of home spectators, the spirit of the athletes is very high. We will try to do our best to bring home medals.”
In the past, the women's marathon was won by Phạm Thị Bình in Myanmar in 2013. Hoàng Thị Thanh bagged a silver in Malaysia four years later, before Lệ clinched a bronze in the Philippines in 2019.
Male marathoner Nguyễn Chí Đông also brought home a silver medal at the Games in 2003, while Thanh took bronze at the 2015 edition in Singapore.
The marathon event takes place on May 19 at the Mỹ Đình National Stadium. This year, Việt Nam will allow nearly 300 amateur runners to run alongside competitors for the first time. — VNS