Coach Quang dedicates himself to Vietnamese rowing

December 14, 2022 - 08:51
Under Lê Văn Quang's reign, Vietnamese rowing has reached international competitions from Southeast Asia to the Olympics.


Coach Lê Văn Quang (first row, second left) poses with his athletes and colleagues after Việt Nam won gold at the 31st SEA Games in May in Hải Phòng. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Two and a half decades after starting out as a rowing coach, Lê Văn Quang has become one of the most successful trainers in Việt Nam.

Under his reign, Vietnamese rowing gradually reached international competitions, including the Olympics.

Early this month, his athletes won five gold medals at the Asia championship, making him the most valuable coach of 2022.

Quang began his training with very few resources, but through hard work and determination, he has helped Vietnamese rowing become a force to be reckoned with in the region.

25 years of hardship

Lê Văn Quang was born in 1969 in Hà Nội. He was a successful swimmer in his youth, but in 1996, he switched to becoming a rowing coach when rowing was still new to the country.

As one of the first rowing coaches in Việt Nam, Quang had to learn the sport on his own through various courses and training programmes.

Despite this difficult start, Quang has become a highly successful coach, helping Vietnamese rowing to reach international competitions from Southeast Asia to the Olympics.

"I was sent to Russia for three months to learn the first lessons about rowing in the early 1990s. Then, in 1993, the World Rowing Federation experts came to Southeast Asia to help regional countries, including Việt Nam, develop this sport," said Quang.

"I also studied in Malaysia in 1994 and China in 1995 to improve my abilities before officially starting my coaching job in 1997."

Quang began his training with almost nothing, just old boats sponsored by the world federation in 1993 and a makeshift house as the training venue next to the West Lake in Hà Nội.

Accompanied by two colleagues, they travelled from north to south to hunt for athletes.

They had to describe what rowing was for parents and persuade them to let their children join the team. Finally, they found 12 athletes for the first course.

Due to the technique of rowing, a water sport, Quang had to spend a lot of time with his athletes. He not only handed on every part of rowing, from sitting on the boat, holding the paddles, and practising the technique but also taught them to swim to avoid drowning.

In addition, Quang cared for the athletes' living and eating habits as they were still kids when coming to him.

Success arrives

In 2002, his star talent Vũ Đăng Tuấn made a bang when he won an Asian championship gold medal, the first title of Việt Nam in an Olympic sport.

A year later, Quang's rowers brought home five golds, with a double by Tuấn, from the 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines.

Tuấn, unfortunately, retired in 2004 when he was only 19 because of heart disease.

"His result was close to leading Olympic athletes, but our dream was broken because of his health problem," Quang said regretfully.

He believed that if Tuấn still competed, Việt Nam would have had an Olympic medal ealier.

Putting his biggest regret aside, Quang continued earning success with a bigger surprise when Nguyễn Thị Thi and Phạm Thị Hiền qualified for the Olympic Athens in 2004, the first time for rowing.

Since then, they have won close to dozens of golds in Southeast Asia, Asia championships, and the Asian Games. They also grabbed berths in 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympics, making Việt Nam the strongest rowers in the region.

Among his heroes are multi-time champions Phạm Thị Huệ, Phạm Thị Hài, Phạm Thị Thảo, Đinh Thị Hảo, Hồ Thị Lý and Lường Thị Thảo.

Vietnamese rowers compete at the 31st SEA Games. Under coach Quang, Việt Nam rowing has reached remarkable results internationally. — VNA/VNS Photo

Recognising the team's potential, sports leaders decided to build a rowing centre in Hải Phòng in 2014.

"We still face many difficulties, but the new centre is much better. It was far away from residential areas, with no chance to walk around. So we can pay total attention to training," said Quang.

Quang was the happiest when they moved, although he had to live far away from his family.

As a coach, he had to work with athletes all year round, so he did not have much time for his family. Luckily, his wife understood and managed everything well so he could rest assured of following his passion.

"I believe that if I love my job and do everything for it, I will earn from it," said Quang.

"I am not a rich-money man, but I am rich in talented athletes and career experience. I have worked with eight foreign coaches who are at the world level. I used to be honoured as one of the national top five coaches. It is people's recognition of my contribution. It is strong encouragement and my pride pushing me to try harder."

Quang and his rowers arrived home after last week's Asian championship victories, but they had no time to rest.

The team will have to prepare to defend their SEA Games' top place next May in Cambodia and have better results of one gold and one silver in the 19th Asian Games next September in China.

And the Paris Olympics is also approaching in 2024.

"It is hard to say anything before tournaments, but Việt Nam rowing targets at least one berth in the Olympics," he said. — VNS