Walker Phạm Thị Thu Trang crosses the finish line. Photo bongda24h.vn
Việt Nam's success at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games was won thanks to the hard work of hundreds of athletes who brought home nearly 100 golds, and many of them were first-time competitors.
Walker Phạm Thị Thu Trang was added to Việt Nam's team two months prior to the Games after she finished second in the national championship.
Greenhorn Trang was accompanied by Olympic participant Nguyễn Thị Thanh Phúc, who was expected to win her fourth title.
They took the lead after half of the 10,000m race and ensured a gold for Việt Nam. However, Phúc made a technical mistake and her time was docked by two minutes, leaving Trang alone at the finish line.
Trang, 21, took gold with a time of 52min 59.45sec.
“I walked without pressure. The coaches told me to feel free to compete. It was a surprising result for me. I came here thinking that crossing the finish line would be a success," said Trang. "I didn't think I could win gold in my first SEA Games.”
Trang has been training in athletics for six years but only moved to walking in the last two years. She also works as a Grab bike driver in her spare time to help her parents pay the bills.
Days later, her teammate Đinh Thị Bích was a revelation in the women's 800m.
In the Philippines, national silver medallist Bích ran with her teammate Khuất Phương Anh, who is the national champion.
In the first 700m, Bích was in the middle of the pack but she finished strong over the last 100m to pass everyone and secure her first-ever SEA Games gold.
"I took part in this Games with a relaxed mind because having a chance to compete here is already an honour," said the 22-year-old.
"In this race, as a new face, I was a little nervous. I asked myself to get as close as possible to the leaders and speed up in the last metres, and it worked," said Bích. "The gold will be a milestone in my career. I believe I can develop better in the future."
Hoàng Thị Duyên fulfilled half of her dream when she won a gold medal in the SEA Games women's 59kg weightlifting category.
Hoàng Thị Duyên lifts in the women's 59kg category. Photo vtv.vn
The Giáy ethnic minority girl had no rival in her class which saw Duyên dominate with a total lift of 210kg, a new Games record.
"It is great to win in Việt Nam's most important regional sports competition. There is no feeling better than seeing our national flag flying the highest," said Duyên in her SEA Games debut.
Duyên played a key role in helping Việt Nam earning a berth in the Rio Olympics in 2016 and won a silver medal in the world championship last year.
The 23-year-old is currently in the world's top eight and hopes to complete the other half of her dream by winning Olympic gold in Tokyo next summer.
In the pool, Trần Hưng Nguyên, 16, opened a new chapter in swimming and took golds in the men's 200m and 400m medley and set one Games record.
"Honestly I did not think of winning gold, never mind two golds, in my first time at the SEA Games," said Nguyên.
"I swam without pressure and just tried hard. I still feel happy and proud of my success," said Nguyên.
Nguyễn Thị Tâm is an experienced Vietnamese boxer, but the Philippines event was her first SEA Games.
Asian champion Tâm said she was nervous but her experience in both amateur and professional tournaments helped a lot.
Nguyễn Thị Tâm celebrate her boxing victory. Photo baoquocte.vn
"I had to defeat three rivals including a host athlete to win the gold medal in the women's 51kg. I worried a little at first but everything became a force to push me to fight better. Winning in the SEA Games is really wonderful," said Tâm, owner of Việt Nam's only boxing gold.Tâm has no time to rest and is preparing for the Olympics qualifier. The world No 4 will vie for one of six slots available in a Chinese tournament in February. Other debutantes contributed to the brilliant SEA Games for Việt Nam such as runner Trần Nhật Hoàng who won a hat-trick of golds in the men's 400m, 4x400m and 4x400m mixed relay, weightlifter Phạm Thị Hồng Thanh who won the women's 64kg and kurash martial artist Hoàng Thị Tình in the women's 52kg. VNS