Walk champion set to make a splash in triathlon

December 18, 2022 - 08:19
He swims, he cycles, and he runs. He has to train for dozens upon dozens of kilometres in each segment for a faster overall time, day after day. All the training is so Võ Xuân Vĩnh can be ready for his debut as a triathlete at the upcoming National Sports Games (NSG).


NEW CHALLENGE: Võ Xuân Vĩnh runs in the Aquaman Vietnam 2022, a 21km swim and 2km run event in October. He finished in second place. Vĩnh will participate in the first triathlon competition at the National Sports Games this month. Photo courtesy of Võ Xuân Vĩnh

Thanh Hà

He swims, he cycles, and he runs. He has to train for dozens upon dozens of kilometres in each segment for a faster overall time, day after day. All the training is so Võ Xuân Vĩnh can be ready for his debut as a triathlete at the upcoming National Sports Games (NSG).

Though it is the first time the triathlon will be held at the quadrennial meet, Vĩnh is expecting a medal.

“I want to test my ability and go beyond my limits, so I decided to practise this endurance multi-sport race," Vĩnh told Việt Nam News.

Vĩnh is no stranger to sports and has been involved in speed walking for nearly 15 years since he was a little boy.

He has been dubbed the 'King of Second Place' due to his consecutive silver medals over the last 12 years, including at the national championship and three SEA Games in a row.

The 31-year-old athlete finally reached the top of the podium at the Games last May, putting his unwanted nickname to be by winning Việt Nam's first men's title in race walking history at the Games.

"The gold medal was significant for me. I am not a second-place finisher anymore. I have won Việt Nam's first men's race walking title in history, and I am proud of that," Vĩnh said.

BORN TO WALK: Võ Xuân Vĩnh (right) competes at the 31st SEA Games in May in Hà Nội. He won Việt Nam's first gold in the men's 20km walking event. — Photo courtesy of Võ Xuân Vĩnh

After the victory ceremony, Vĩnh surprised people by saying he would pause walking to switch to triathlon and hoped to compete as a triathlete in the next Games in Cambodia.

"I am a newbie in triathlon, but I am interested in it. I have fallen in love with triathlon since the 2008 Olympics. I was inspired by athletes from Germany and Canada, who came first and second, respectively. I have researched it since then and now have a chance to compete. I want this NSG will be a turning point in my sports career," Vĩnh said.

Asked about how difficult the triathlon is, he said it was not easy. Every small move must be made carefully or athletes risk injuries.

"I am lucky because I have good endurance after years of walking hard. I have been swimming since I was a boy, and my skills are much better as pro swimmers have guided me to breathe well and improve my technique. Walking and running are the same in some techniques. Running is not my concern. But biking is. To me, it is the most difficult segment in the triathlon, so I have to work harder on that," he said.

Seven months have passed, and Vĩnh has made substantial progress in his new routine. A berth in the top three at the NSG would make him a national team member and help him make his wish come true.

Võ Xuân Vĩnh (right) swims in the Aquaman Vietnam event. Photo of Võ Xuân Vĩnh

In preparation for the NSG, Vĩnh has moved to Tuần Châu Island, Quảng Ninh Province, the location of the triathlon, to practise for weeks on end. His coaches want him to become familiar with the venue and the climate. They hope it will help him get a good result at the Games.

"The NSG is the most important local event for athletes. The results are essential not only for athletes but also for our team. So we have to be focused on training and competing," said Vĩnh.

“My coaches and I make plans for each period. We analyse my statistics after each training and make changes if possible to ensure my result is better next time."

"It is the first time competing in a triathlon at the NSG. I am a little nervous but still determined to get the highest result. Honestly, I want to be a champion," he said.

However, Vĩnh knows he will meet enormous challenges on the way to the top of the podium. His biggest rivals will be two national team members, Lâm Quang Nhật and Nguyễn Vũ Anh Huy of HCM City.

Nhật was the SEA Games swimming champion. After retiring from the pool, he competed in triathlons for three years and has made substantial progress to become the national No 1 male athlete.

Huy was a talented swimmer of HCM City for eight years before focusing on academic studies. He has competed in triathlons since 2018, and his remarkable results made him a national team member in 2022.

Nhật finished 6th and Huy 10th at the May SEA Games.

"Currently, my time is not as good as both of them, my main rivals in the NSG. But I am not scared of them. I am working hard, and my results are improving daily," said Vĩnh.

Võ Xuân Vĩnh (centre) in the top podium of the men's 20km walk in the 31st SEA Games. He hopes to earn a slot on the national team to compete as a triathlete at the 32nd Games in Cambodia next May. — VNA/VNS Photo

When asked if he would defend his title at the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia, Vĩnh said he would love to walk to keep his crown but also wanted to fight in a new sport.

"I have temporarily stopped walking to focus on the triathlon. I will wait to see how good I am at the NSG before deciding which sport I will go for in the coming SEA Games," said Vĩnh.

"In the best-case scenario, I will qualify for both. I will need a little time to adjust to the technique and skill of these two sports, but I can manage it all well." VNS