|Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên seen competing at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines. She is expected to win Olympic berth at the National Age Groups Swimming Championship in May in HCM CIty. — VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese swimmers will have A chance to earn their Olympics slots this May.
The National Age Groups Swimming Championship has been recognised as an Olympic qualification tournament, giving opportunities for former Asian champion Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên and SEA Games winner Hoàng Quý Phước.
“The Việt Nam Sports Administration and the Việt Nam Aquatic Sports Association (VASA) worked with the International Swimming Federation (FINA) who agreed that results of the age groups event will be counted and athletes who reach standards will be qualified for the Tokyo Games,” said Lê Thanh Huyền, head of the Administration’s swimming department.
To persuade the world governing body who could not send their officials to Việt Nam for checking, VASA had to send images of the facility and its equipment which would be used to serve the competition to FINA.
The championship will be held on May 14-19 at the HCM City’s Phú Thọ Swimming Club which has been approved to host international tournaments.
It is the first time ever a Vietnamese event become an Olympic qualifier.
The championship will be observed by local referees because FINA officials could not arrive.
It will be the last chance for Viên and teammates to secure their opportunities for the summer Olympics.
Viên swam women’s 200m backstroke and 400m individual medley in the 2012 Games in London. She took part in the 200m and 400m individual medley and 400m freestyle in Rio de Janeiro four years later. Meanwhile, Phước enjoyed his first Olympic time in the men’s 200m freestyle in Brazil.
Five years have gone with many changes especially the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both swimmers have no been able to train intensively this year. Phước was in a more difficult situation as he is based Đà Nẵng, a hotspot for the novel coronavirus. He was not allowed to swim in the pool and could only exercise in the gym.
Viên is strong in the 400m individual medley and set a record at the Asian Swimming Championship with a time of 4min 37.71sec in Japan in 2016.
To qualify for the Olympics, Viên needs to swim 4:38.53.
Phước has to top 1:47.02 in his class and beat his national record of 1:48.07.
“They are in good mental strength currently but it is obvious that no international competition affects their performance,” said Ngô Ích Quân, head of the Administration’s Elite Sport 2 Department.
“We had no way to help as tournaments were postponed and delayed. We know they can’t wait to compete now.”
In May, athletes will have an advantage of competing on home ground but they have no strong opponents to practice and push their speed, so it would be a little difficult to reach the standards, according to Quân.
Prior to the age groups event, Viên and other swimmers will warm up at the National Short Course Swimming Championship in Thừa Thiên-Huế Province in April. The tournament was delayed from mid-March to a new date because of the COVID-19.
Currently, Việt Nam have one representative at the July festival. He is Nguyễn Huy Hoàng who will compete in the men’s 800m and 1,500m freestyle classes. — VNS