Đỗ Thị Ánh Nguyệt competes at the 30th SEA Games last month. She won a gold medal in the women's recurve team. Nguyệt will take part in Tokyo Games this summer. — Photo sport5.vn
HÀ NỘI — Hold the bow, notch the arrow, draw the string back, aim and fire.
Repeat this process about 200 times per day and you have what archers Đỗ Thị Ánh Nguyệt and Nguyễn Hoàng Phi Vũ are doing to prepare for the biggest moment of their careers, competing in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
The pair became the first Vietnamese archers to qualify for the Olympics after their successful performance at the Asian championships last November in Thailand.
Born in 2001 in Hưng Yên Province, Nguyệt started her sporting career as a basketball player and started playing for Hà Nội in 2016. However, after seven months, her coaches saw Nguyệt was more suited to archery and she was advised to move to the new sport in early 2017.
Sports coaches in Việt Nam often train athletes in multiple sports.
She refused at first and wanted to go home, but eventually agreed to take a tryout after being encouraged by her coaches.
“It was really difficult at first because archery is totally different from basketball. I had to adjust from a ‘moving’ sport to a ‘quiet’ one,” said Nguyệt.
“However, I gradually discovered the unique and special angles of archery. The more I trained, the more I liked it and I have fallen in love with the sport of bow and arrows,” said the 19-year-old.
Nguyệt progressed well and was sent to South Korea for intensive training for months where she had chance to sharpen her skills with leading Korean athletes.
The training paid off and Nguyệt finished in the national championships’ top three and earned a berth in the national team in 2018-19.
The Asian Archery Championships was her first international tournament where she was expected to learn more from the continent's best archers.
However, the teenager did better than anyone could have imagined.
She advanced to the semi-finals after beating her senior teammate Lộc Thị Đào who has dominated the national championships for years.
Nguyệt was defeated by Indian No 1 seed Kumari Deepika in the semi-final and then finished third. The championship was a qualifier for the 2020 Olympics, which meant Nguyệt became the first ever Vietnamese archer to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“It was a surprise for me as I took my Olympic berth in my first international competition. It will be a strong push for me. I have told myself to have my best result in Tokyo,” she said.
About two weeks later, she made her debut at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines. She was in a team with Đào and Nguyễn Thị Phương and the trio won a gold medal in the women’s team event.
Eye problem, not a matter
Nguyễn Hoàng Phi Vũ was born in 1999 in a family with his grandfather a target shooting coach in Hải Dương Province.
Recognising his ambition and ability for shooting, his parents agreed to let him join the provincial shooting centre at the age of 13.
However, he struggled due to the fact one of his eyes is short-sighted and the other one suffers astigmatism.
He was introduced to archery team where coach Nguyễn Xuân Thành agreed to take him on.
After two years, Vũ scored remarkable results in the national youth championships and was called to the national junior team in 2015. Three years later, he became a member of the national team.
Last year was his best year in the sport so far.
Vũ won a gold medal at the November Asian championship after beating teammate Chu Anh Đức in the men’s individual recurve event, securing his berth at the Tokyo Games.
He also grabbed a gold medal in the SEA Games’ mixed pair recurve category last December.
“His Asian gold and the SEA Games title are outstanding achievements. These are sweet results for Vũ, a man of steel mind and great determination. Whenever he sets a target, he strives hard to make it,” said coach Thành.
“I train eight hours every day. I have to hold this more-than-10kg bow up, aim and shoot about 300-400 arrows per day,” said Vũ.
“In archery, athletes also have to train their mental strength too. We need to maintain our stable mind for a long time so we can get good results in every competition.
“It was really hard in the beginning but now archery is my passion and I have no problems,” said Vũ, who has overcome his eye problems to become an accurate marksman.
The two Vietnamese archers will have several days to celebrate Tết (Lunar New Year) with their families before returning to training in early February.
They will take part in the Asian Archery Cup in March in Thailand and the World Cup in Germany in June as final tests ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. — VNS
Nguyễn Hoàng Phi Vũ practises in Hà Nội. He is the second Vietnamese archer winning an Olympic berth. — Photo webthethao.vn