Bùi Thị Thu Thảo will return to compete next year. — Photo nld.com.vn
Việt Nam’s top long jumper Bùi Thị Thu Thảo is about to become a mother, but she already has her sights set on competing next year.
With all sports affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes have been forced to train a lot with no competitions on the horizon. But for Thảo, she's been able to focus on preparing to be a mother.
Earlier, Thảo withdrew from the 30th Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines last year as she needed to spend time treating a hip injury and preparing for motherhood.
“It was lucky for me as I asked to stopped from the competition in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic so there aren't any important events this year,” Thảo told Việt Nam News.
Since she fell pregnant, Thảo reduced heavy exercise and her job as a coach at the Hà Nội Sports Training and Competition Centre has been rearranged so that her health isn't impacted.
“I am very happy to be a mother. I have been dedicated to sports for many years, so now it is the time for my small family,” said Thảo who got married four years ago.
Despite being only 28 years old, Thảo has 14 years of track and field experience and is one of the most successful female long jumpers in the history of Vietnamese athletics.
In 2017, Thảo won a gold medal at the Asian championship, two others at the Asian Grand Prix and one title at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia, recording her personal best of 6.68m.
At the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games held in Turkmenistan, Thảo claimed a silver medal, with a long jump of 6.36m.
At the Asian Games 2018 in Indonesia, Thảo also surprised professionals by winning a gold medal with a 6.55m jump. At the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship in Tehran, Iran, in 2018, she also brought the home gold medal.
These successes brought Thảo many honours, including Female Athlete of the Year at the Victory Cup, the sports Oscars in Việt Nam in 2017 and 2018.
Those successes are the result of the hard work of more than a decade, with silent sacrifices like getting married but having to postpone motherhood to serve the national team.
Long jump champion Bùi Thị Thu Thảo and her husband. Photo Facebook of Bùi Thị Thu Thảo
Although Thảo is about to have a baby, she still plans to compete again.
“I will return to compete in the upcoming SEA Games next year,” she told Việt Nam News.
The girl from the mountainous district of Ba Vì in Hà Nội said she can return to training early next year and she hopes to regain her form and vie for the gold medal at the region's biggest sporting event, set to be held in Hà Nội.
Thảo’s plan to give birth and return to sports is similar to runner Nguyễn Thị Huyền, who returned to the 400m after a year off to give birth and took two SEA Games gold medals last year in the women’s 400m and 400m hurdle.
Thảo is a strong example of overcoming difficult circumstances to pursue a passion for sports.
She was born in a poor family in Đồng Thái Commune, Ba Vì District. As a kid, she used to help her parents bind bricks and grow rice.
Long jump champion Bùi Thị Thu Thảo seen at her house in Ba Vì District. Photo Facebook of Bùi Thị Thu Thảo
She showed her talent in sports like swimming and badminton.
When she was 14, former head coach of the national athletics team Nguyễn Trọng Hổ saw Thảo compete at a provincial tournament and selected her for the athletics team of Hà Tây Province (now part of Hà Nội).
In the early days of training for the provincial track and field team, Thảo was depressed at having left home and finding herself struggle at long-distance running.
Thảo quit sports at one point but a month later, Hổ and her father persuaded her to return to training.
Although Thảo lacks the ideal height of a long jump athlete (1.65m), she has remarkable power and a strong will to compete. These special qualities have helped her progress and rise to the top spot in many domestic and international tournaments.
A few years ago, Thảo's father suddenly fell seriously ill, making him no longer the main breadwinner of the house. Now, Thảo is driven to win medals and awards to pay for home repairs and her father's treatment.
During her years as an athlete, Thảo also surprised many people by her ability to handle life on her own. She sold sweet potatoes, eggs, then opened a restaurant to earn more.
Thảo is not afraid of it of hard work and proudly posts photos of herself selling sweet potatoes on her Facebook page and delivering them personally so that her family has more money for Lunar New Year holiday.
She once sold more than 1.5 tonnes of sweet potatoes in just a few days and earned the nickname "sweet potato champion". — VNS