Vinh wants Olympic medal in doping comeback

April 14, 2024 - 07:28
Trịnh Văn Vinh will represent Việt Nam at the Paris Olympics this summer.


Trịnh Văn Vinh in action in the men's 62kg at the International Weightlifting Federation World Cup in Thailand. He qualifies for the Paris Olympics. Photo of IWF

Thanh Hà

He has waited for this day for a long time, practising hard and competing with the highest determination and effort. Finally, Trịnh Văn Vinh's dream has come true.

In his last successful attempt, Vinh lifted 163kg, for a total weight of 294kg at the International Weightlifting Federation World Cup. He did not earn a medal, but it was enough to get him a place in the world's top 10, and he will represent Việt Nam at the Paris Olympics this summer.

Long journey

Vinh's world collapsed when he suffered a four-year ban because of unintended doping in 2019. Everything disappeared, no local competition and no international tournaments, right at the time he showed his greatest promise.

The 2017 world champion was one of the key athletes for Việt Nam and expected to win an Asian Games gold and a medal at the 2020 Olympics.

Trịnh Văn Vinh practises at the National Sports Training Centre in Hà Nội. — Photo Hoàng Tùng

“I was shocked and sad," Vinh said of the ban. “I thought that I could not return to weightlifting because of such a long ban."

He was 24 at the time and would be 28 when he was back. Friends, family and coaches helped him overcome the darkness over nearly 1,500 days.

“I kept training and set the date of being 'free' as a target to strive for. Looking at the result of the top three of the 62kg at the Olympics in 2020, I regretted it because if there was no ban, I would definitely have earned a medal," Vinh said.

The Bắc Ninh Province-born athlete used this regret and hurt as motivation to keep going.

"It was not easy. I always thought about my Olympic dream. I imagined that I would be at the most global prestigious competition. I looked towards the 2024 Olympics and set my own target of winning a medal."

However, things did not go smoothly.

When he was allowed to compete again in early 2023, he was called to the national team taking part in the Asia Championships, Asian Games and the world championships.

Trịnh Văn Vinh celebrates after a successful lifting at the 2024 IWF World Cup in Thailand. -- VNS Photo

Despite his belief, trust and confidence, he could not enter the top three, but gained some points in the world ranking.

“After years of no competition, I faced challenges coming back. It took time for me to prepare mentally and get familiar with the competition environment," he said. “Poor performances and high pressure did not get me down. I had my Olympic target and I worked harder for it."

Vinh switched his target to be in world top 10 as that would also give him an Olympic place. And he made it at the Thailand World Cup, the last qualification tournament.

"It is great to qualify for the Olympics. A big thanks to my family and teammates, coaches and the sport officials who gave me strong support for my comeback," Vinh said. "I still have many things to do to improve my result because my rivals are all strong and experienced. I have to take time to prepare my best."

Tough time in Paris

Vinh is No 9 In the world ranking with best weight of 294kg. There is a big gap between Vinh and the top five players, who are also candidates for the gold.

Olympic reigning champion and world No 1 Li Fabin of China made 314kg. No 2 Pak Myong Jin from North Korea recorded 307kg. Indonesian Eko Yuli maintained impressive performance for years at 303kg that has brought him medals from four recent Olympics.

American Morris Hampton had the same weight, while Filipino Ceniza John Febuar lifted 300kg.

Trịnh Văn Vinh will need great effort to improve his total weight so that he could vie for an Olympic medal this summer. -- VNS Photo

The Vietnamese has work to do in the next four months to narrow the gap and win a medal.

“With my current record, I will be in the top three. My coaches and I will have to improve. I have travelled a long way to get here, I want to make more of an impression," said Vinh who wants a medal like his idol Hoàng Anh Tuấn who earned Việt Nam's first weightlifting silver in the 2008 Beijing Games.

Nguyễn Huy Hùng, of the Sports Authority of Việt Nam's Weightlifting Department, said Vinh was on the right track in terms of increasing the total weight he can lift. The coaching board will map out a new plan for him to compete in Paris.

"If he can make 307kg as he did at the 2017 SEA Games, then the chance to win a medal is wide open. However, Vinh is 29 and just got back in competition for a year. It will be a tough job to increase from 294kg to 300kg, the minimum result to vie for a medal," Hùng said.

"It will require great effort, determination and a bit of luck." VNS