Phong targets redemption after landing cost him SEA Games gold last year

April 28, 2023 - 07:22
Every day, he tirelessly trains his landings, determined to ensure that every move in his performance is flawless.

SEA Games

Nguyễn Văn Khánh Phong competes and wins a silver in the men's rings at the 31st SEA Games last May. He expects to earn higher result at the 32nd Games next month in Cambodia. Photo

HÀ NỘI — Nguyễn Văn Khánh Phong is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for gold at the upcoming 32nd SEA Games.

Every day, he tirelessly trains his landings, determined to ensure that every move in his performance is flawless.

For Phong, winning an individual gold medal would be the ultimate dream. The memory of last May 15, when he narrowly missed out on the top spot in the men's rings event, still lingers fresh in his mind.

Despite executing the perfect routine, an unbalanced landing cost him the gold, and he had to settle for the silver medal behind Filipino star Carlos Yulo.

But Phong is not one to be deterred. He knows that success in the highly competitive world of gymnastics requires relentless effort and dedication. With each passing day, he pushes himself harder, honing his skills and perfecting his technique, all in pursuit of that elusive gold medal.

"A gold medal in the team event was my pride, but I still wanted my gold," said Phong, who burst into tears upon his infamous landing. "I lost it in the last second because of the landing."

"If I made a good landing, my points would definitely be higher than Yulo and won. It was really sad that I failed and dropped the title."

Nguyễn Văn Khánh Phong's awkward landing meant he finished with silver at the 31st SEA Games last May. VNS Photo Việt Linh

Born in 2002 in HCM City, Phong has trained in gymnastics since he was young. After 15 years, he has gained several achievements and promised to be one of Việt Nam's best athletes.

"I began with gymnastics in 2008 when I was six," said Phong. "It is a long way, and I have overcome many difficulties to grab a little success today."

The little boy joined the city team, and his talent was proved, so he was sent to train in Hungary for four years.

He made a big bang in 2018. At 16, he was one of seven Asian athletes to compete in the Youth Olympics in Argentina.

He was the only gymnast from the Southeast Asian region at the event and finished in eighth place among 20 participants.

In the same year, he also won three golds, two silvers and one bronze at the Junior World Cup.

In his collection, Phong also had silver from the 2015 Wuhnen Juniors Trophy, two golds and two silvers from the 2016 Seagzone Artistic Junior Championships, and one gold and two bronze from the 2017 Junior World Cup.

In his SEA Games debut in 2022, he took one gold and one silver. In his latest international tournament, the World Cup in Azerbaijan in late March, he placed fourth in his strong point of rings event.

"World athletes are strong because they receive strong support and are sent to international tournaments regularly to improve their quality," said Bùi Trung Thiện of the Gymnastics Department of the Việt Nam Sports Administration. "We are happy when Phong has shown off his great abilities. He had many chances to compete abroad, but he always did good jobs."

Nguyễn Văn Khánh Phong trains at the National Sports Training Centre in Hà Nội. He is Việt Nam's golden hope in the men's rings event. VNA/VNS Photo

"Phong is a good athlete who has a strong and brave competitive attitude," said coach Trương Minh Sang. "He is a hard-working and confident gymnast. He is a talented successor in gymnastics, especially in the rings event, of Việt Nam."

Việt Nam dominated the rings event as Đặng Nam won five SEA Games in a row before he retired in 2021, giving his berth in the national team to Phong.

Phong's silver medal was a disappointing result for himself but was still a good sign for his coaches, who believed he would lift Việt Nam to the top podium again at the next Games.

"He is a potential candidate for golds," said coach Sang. "Currently, we focus on improving his skills and fixing all mistakes in his performance. It is to avoid getting minus points. I hope Phong will have a good show in the Cambodian SEA Games."

Phong is determined to finish top of the podium next month.

"Coaches train me to keep a competitive mind in both training and competing," said Phong. "'Giving-up' does not exist in my mind. My senior Nam also talked and advised me to help me become stronger and better."

"I am working hard to ensure the landing mistake will never happen again. I will not drop my gold for the second time."

Gymnastics will be held on May 6-9 at the Olympic Stadium Centre's Marquee Tent in Phnom Penh. VNS