|Phạm Tiến Sản is over the moon after winning Việt Nam's first duathlon gold medal at the 31st SEA Games in May in Quảng Ninh Province. VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Topping off his most successful year as a professional athlete, Phạm Tiến Sản has been honoured as one of the 'Best Citizens of Bắc Giang Province'.
Sản was among 10 citizens honoured in a ceremony on October 7.
His duathlon gold medal at the recent 31st SEA Games was key to putting him on the list.
"I never thought I would receive this title. I am really touched by people's appreciation," Sản told Việt Nam News.
|Phạm Tiến Sản and his family at the Best Citizens of Bắc Giang awarding ceremony on October 7. — Photo from Phạm Tiến Sản facebook|
"I am here today with the award because I have received strong support from the Bắc Giang Province's leaders and encouragement from my family. I still have many work to do and the title will remind me of more responsibility for what I will do in the future."
Great second finisher
The athlete came to athletics much later than others, being scouted after a school competition at the age of 18 in 2009. Months later he took bronze at the national junior championship and was picked to the national team.
In 2012, Sản became the national champion in the 3,000m steeplechase and represented Việt Nam at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, the 2015 Games in Singapore and the 2017 Games in Malaysia.
Although the young athlete was expected to make the top position, he finished second in all three events, becoming known as the 'king of second place'.
"I was very close to the gold in 2015 but lost to a Filipino athlete in the last seconds," recalled Sản.
After the Singapore Games, injuries forced Sản out of competition for two years.
In his comeback in 2019, he was not a national team member. He began running long distances and tried duathlon, which was just introduced to Việt Nam with a few professional athletes. It opened a door for him to become a national team member again.
“Social distancing created a lot of difficulties for me in training. However, I tried to train by running and cycling up to 20km each around my village and the rice field along with three-hour workouts at home," said Sản.
|Phạm Tiến Sản (second, right) competes in the cycling leg of the men's duathlon at the 31st SEA Games in May. — VNA/VNS Photo|
He upgraded his training programme in the middle of 2021 when duathlon was named an official sport of the 31st Games. He was in intensive training with other teammates in early 2022 with a bike borrowed from his coach.
"He just switched to duathlon for one year but showed his fast development. He grabbed better and better results in both training and competing," said national coach Cao Ngọc Hà.
Meanwhile, coach Nguyễn Văn Hùng of Bắc Giang said Sản was an extremely hard-working athlete. He was also an athlete of discipline who strictly followed and perfectly completed all tactics and exercises.
Prior to the Hà Nội SEA Games, Sản tested himself in two competitions. He just received recognition as a finisher in the first but a bronze medal in the second one.
Coming to the May Games, Sản did not expect much but competing without pressure was key to pushing him faster.
The SEA Games veteran finished first with a time of 1hr 55.58min to top the podium, ending his time as the 'king of second place'.
The gold medal was not only the first for Sản but also for Việt Nam.
"Nothing can compare to my happiness after crossing the finish line," said Sản, who dominated the two running legs and still used the borrowed bike for the cycling stage.
"After almost five years out of the national team, I returned and make my gold medal dream come true.
"More than that, I won gold on home ground. It is a special victory!"
A diamond title
Dương Đức Thủy, former head of the Athletics Department, said Sản's gold was great for Việt Nam.
Prior to Sản, Việt Nam won bronze thanks to Nguyễn Thị Phương Trinh in the Philippines Games in 2019.
Thủy and members of a campaigning committee worked hard in recent years to urge the establishment of the Việt Nam Triathlon Federation.
He said Sản's gold would be key to pushing the process and luring people's attention to the sport.
|Phạm Tiến Sản (left) competes in the running leg of the men's duathlon at the 31st SEA Games in May. — VNA/VNS Photo|
The athlete himself also expected that duathlon and triathlon athletes would receive more support from the sports administration so that they would develop better in the future.
"SEA Games 31 was over but the 32nd one is approaching. My teammates and I still keep training for the coming important tournaments. We need to prepare well to show the best performance," said Sản.
Prior to that, Sản will represent Bắc Giang in the National Athletics Relay Championship on October 12-13 and then the National Sports Games in December.
"It will be the first time duathlon is held at the National Sports Games. All athletes will train hard for the tournament, and I will too. I hope I will do my best for myself and for Bắc Giang Province." VNS