Boxer Linh makes Olympic dream come true

June 09, 2024 - 08:22
One year after her gold medal at the 32nd SEA Games, Hà Thị Linh entered an international tournament top three again on June 2. It will be her career's most memorable bronze medal as it helped her reach the Olympics, a long-held dream.


Hà Thị Linh of Việt Nam (right) lands a punch on Agnes Alexiusson of Sweden during the semi-finals of the second World Qualification Tournament's women's 60kg class on June 1 in Thailand. Photo

Thanh Hà

One year after her gold medal at the 32nd SEA Games, Hà Thị Linh entered an international tournament top three again on June 2. Though it was just third, it will be her career's most memorable bronze medal as it helped her reach the Olympics, a long-held dream.

At age 31, Linh finally earned her official spot after much blood and tears. She will be the oldest Vietnamese athlete at the Paris event this summer.

Two-time SEA Games champion

A year ago, Linh burst into tears after beating tough rival Riza Pasuit of the Philippines in the final of the women's 63kg at the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia. It was her second SEA Games gold medal and second major international title, after her first in 2013.

Speaking to reporters after her win, Linh was thrilled. She worked hard to get to the top of the region again.

Hà Thị Linh is taken care of by her coach after winning the 32nd SEA Games title last May in Cambodia. VNS Photo Tuấn Đức

"I have practised boxing for 14 years. The best victory was the gold at the 2013 SEA Games. It was my first time, but I won," Linh said.

"To me, sport is passion and the job that feeds me and my family. It is my honour to practise boxing, and it is also motivation that pushes me to be better every day."

The Tày ethnic minority girl left her family when she was 12 years old, in 2005, to join Hà Nội's boxing team.

It took her eight years of hard work to secure her SEA Games title, which put Việt Nam's women's boxing on the regional map

She only stepped back to the top a decade later, after a period that saw many changes and adjustments.

In these 10 years, Linh asked to quit for her family and baby, but the love of boxing brought her back.

"When I was a young girl, I simply tried to practise for the highest result. Now, I am a mother of two, everything is different," she said.

"Many things have changed and I am faced with more challenges. Physique is a big issue for a woman who gives birth. Training is really tough and exhausts me. But I asked myself to work hard, setting targets every day, so I could catch up with Asian and international athletes.

"My kids are a concern too. I live far away from them. Being homesick and missing the children are challenges I find hard to overcome. But they are also a strong motivation to push me. I need to arrange everything well so that it does not affect my profession."

She added that it was time to reach a higher level and did not hesitate to make an Olympic spot one of her targets.

Hà Thị Linh (right) attacks Ana Starovoitova of Lithuania during the first round of the second World Qualification Tournament's women's 60kg class. Photo

“Winning the SEA Games title is great, but I wanted to reach Olympic competition. I was very determined with this goal."

Coach Nguyễn Như Cường said: "Linh has the great qualities of a talented boxer. She also has a strong passion for boxing, which is a key to helping her return to and reach her peak after a long rest. Her family and people's support also contributed a lot to her success."

Paris in plan

One year later, Linh completed her mission.

In Bangkok's second World Qualification Tournament, Linh stormed to the semi-finals of the women's 60kg where she lost to Agnes Alexiusson of Sweden.

She then defeated Vilma Viitannen of Finland 4-1 in the third-placed play-off match to secure the last spot in the category.

"It was a superb result. I cannot explain how happy I am with this Olympic place," said Linh, as she landed at back on home turf at Nội Bài Airport.

"I took part in the first qualification in February and was eliminated early. I found that all athletes had good technique and physique along with a high determination. I asked myself how I could get better to beat them in the second qualifier. It was the only way to take the Olympic slot."

Hà Thị Linh (fourth, right) and her coaches are welcome home after they seal an Olympic spot in boxing. VNS Photo Minh Minh

As a national hope, Linh was sent to intensive training camps in Kazakhstan and Thailand in preparation for her final chance.

"Winning the first match was a strong push for me. The second win and third win made me more confident. However, Alexiusson was really tough and I lost. Everything was bet on the play-off. The coaching board and I all agreed that I had to put my best into that fight. And we made it," Linh said. VNS