Bình no longer just a long shot at SEA Games

May 21, 2023 - 07:44
Phan Thanh Bình opens a new chapter for Việt Nam's shot put after winning a silver medal at the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia.

SEA Games

Phan Thanh Bình competes in the men's shot put event during the 32nd SEA Games on May 9 in Phnom Penh. He takes a silver and sets national record. VNA/VNS Photos

Thanh Hà

While thousands focused on the running track, little did they know that in a far corner of Phnom Penh's Morodok Techo Stadium, Phan Thanh Bình was bagging a medal in the men's shot put.

It was not until he wrapped himself in the national flag that he grabbed people's attention.

"I made it. Finally, I made it," he shouted with pride.

The athlete had finished second with a throw of 17.39m, just behind Jakkapat Noisri of Thailand on 17.84m.

The silver-medal effort was a new national record, a result that had been long in the making.

"I have practised hard. I have done my best. This medal will be my milestone. I respect it," Bình told Việt Nam News.

Born in 1995 in Ninh Thuận Province, Bình was on the radar of scouts from when he was a ninth grade student, his large body and 1.8m height ideal for the throwing event.

"I considered an offer one day and decided to leave for HCM City and began my athletics life from then," he said.

"There were three main reasons. My older brother was a basketballer, now a coach, he also competed in the 32nd SEA Games. My family was poor and had five children, so if I followed sport, my parents would not have to take care of me. And the third is funny, but I was fat and sport helped me keep fit."

Phan Thanh Bình (left) pose for photo with winner of the men's shot put event Jakkapat Noisri of Thailand, and bronze medallist Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli of Malaysia (right) on May 9.

Over the last 13 years, Bình has gone from being a stranger in the sport not knowing anything to a master and national record holder.

"It was not a familiar event to most people. I knew nothing but practised as my coaches asked. Practising was not easy. I was exhausted with training. I was tired all day from chucking the heavy metal ball and the discus," he said.

"Sometimes I was depressed, but I was pushed by the coaches. Gradually, I found it more interesting, especially when I earned my first awards."

His hard work soon made him national champion in both the shot put and discus.

In the shot put, Bình won gold and set a national record of 16.70m at the National Sports Games in 2018. Four years later, he broke his own record with a throw of 16.71m at the 31st SEA Games in 2022.

In the discus, he broke a 19-year-old national record in an international tournament in South Korea in 2019 with a throw of 48.64m.

"Training every day is hard, and training to set a new record requires more effort. I have to sharpen my skills, my strength and update new technique through the internet regularly," he said.

In the same year, he was called to the national team for the first time and competed at the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines.

He was also a member of the team at the Hà Nội Games last year. Despite his efforts, Bình could not enter the top three.

Hard work pays off

Due to his humble international results, Bình was not on the shortlist of the Việt Nam sports delegation because he was seen as having no chance for a medal.

But he made the final list after he received public financial support.

"I was excited to know that I would compete in Cambodia. It was my third SEA Games, and I told myself to do my best for Việt Nam," he said.

"I set a target of at least 17m and a bronze medal. However, I was nervous at first because all the athletes including naturalised ones, were strong. But I set a goal to reach."

In Phnom Penh, Bình faced last year's best shot putter William Morrison of the Philippines, Jakkapat Noisri of Thailand, and Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli from Malaysia.

They were all title candidates, while Bình was unknown.

Phan Thanh Bình's silver is Việt Nam's best result in shot put in a SEA Games. The national champion expects to lure more people's attention to this discipline after the historic result.

"Morrison was the two-time champion and record holder, but did not find his best form this year. Noisri, however, was a really powerful rival. He was strongly supported by an American coach. So, his top podium finish was not a surprise to me," Binh said.

"My silver was not expected. Finally, I won my first medal after three attempts in the regional sport meet. The national record was not in the plan. Everyone was surprised about it. I think it was a turning point in my career and Việt Nam's throwing."

Bình's silver was not only the best-ever result in Việt Nam throwing but also ended the country's 24-year medal-drought in the event, according to Trịnh Đức Thanh, a Hồ Chí Minh City athletics federation official. The last was a bronze won by Đào Dân Tiến at the 1999 SEA Games.

Thanh hopes that the medal will be a motivation for the country and that the Vietnamese shot putter will earn higher results in the future.

"Sometimes, I was unhappy because throwing is little cared for. But after my silver, I hope that more people will know, practise and love it," Bình said.

"For the SEA Games, I believe that if I receive strong support like Noisri I will win too. I want to compete at higher level competitions such as Asian tournaments. It is difficult to vie against powerhouses like China, India and Japan, but I still dream of the day I can reach the continental level. After all, nothing is impossible." VNS