Quách Thị Lan is expected to compete in the Olympics for the first time in her career. Photo nld.com.vn
HÀ NỘI — At the National Sports Training Centre in Hà Nội, Quách Thị Lan is training hard ahead of this summer's Tokyo Olympics.
Last week, Lan was the only Vietnamese track and field athlete nominated to compete in the Tokyo Olympics through a wildcard entry by the Việt Nam Athletics Federation.
If she is approved in early July, she will compete in the Olympics for the first time in her career in the women’s 400m hurdles.
As it is for all athletes, competing in the Olympics is set to be a career highlight for Lan and with little time left until the Games begin, she's sparing no effort to prepare.
“With her form and skills, Lan completely deserves to represent Vietnamese athletics to compete in the world’s biggest sporting event,” national athletics coach Vũ Ngọc Lợi told Việt Nam News.
“In Asia, Lan is a leading athlete. If she maintains her fitness to run under 56 seconds, she will be able to pass the qualifying round,” Lợi added.
Lan was born in the central province of Thanh Hóa and is from the Mường ethnic group. At 1.75m tall and with especially long legs, she is considered a rarity in the Vietnamese athletics team.
At the age of 25, Lan still has the potential to do great things in athletics, something she has worked for her whole life.
Youth for training
Lan and her brother Quách Công Lịch, a 400m runner and hurdler, are a rare pair of siblings in Vietnamese athletics and the pair have been training at the Hà Nội-based National Sports Training Centre for about 10 years.
The Mường girl went through many challenges in her youth, from difficulties training overseas to suffering injuries and coming back stronger than ever.
From 2013 to 2015, Lan was selected to be trained in Bulgaria and the US to improve her skills. During that time, she broke the youth national record in the women's 400m event with a time of 52.80secs, which stands to this day.
Now, she is under the guidance of coach Nguyễn Thị Bắc and Bulgarian expert Vladimir Hristov.
The 400m hurdles is Lan's best race due to her long legs. She won gold medals at the Asian Athletics Championships 2019 in Qatar at 56.10secs and Asian Games 2018 (ASIAD) in Indonesia at 55.30secs. She is also the holder of the national record of 400m hurdles with a time of 55.30secs.
In the women’s 400m event, Lan won the 2014 ASIAD bronze medal in Incheon, South Korea. In addition, she brought home a gold medal from the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in India. She also bagged many relay medals at the SEA Games and other international tournaments.
Quách Thị Lan runs a free fitness centre in Hà Nội with her friends. Photo qdnd.vn
Despite her success, Lan has long struggled mentally in competition, especially when she has had to compete against Nguyễn Thị Huyền, who is two years older than Lan and has won many SEA Games gold medals as well as spot in the 2016 Olympics 400m and 400m hurdles.
Lan's previous meetings against Huyền on the 400m and 400m hurdles races in the SEA Games always ended with Huyền on top. Lan often lost to Huyền by a tight margin and despite having golds from many more important tournaments, Lan is still empty-handed in the SEA Games in two individual events of 400m and 400m hurdles.
At the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines in 2019, Lan also lost to Huyền in both 400m and 400m hurdles although Huyền had only recently returned to training after a year of giving birth. But at that time, Lan was not in the best shape because she hadn’t fully recovered from her injury.
Quách Thị Lan and her brother Quách Công Lịch. Photo webthethao.vn
Since that tough defeat, Lan has completely changed and is more confident than ever.
Regaining her form after injury, confidence and overcoming her mental issue, she defeated Huyền in the two important events last year.
Lan bested Huyền in the Speed Cup in HCM City last June in the 400m to take a gold medal, while at the National Athletics Championships in Hà Nội last November, she also beat Huyền in both 400m and 400m hurdles.
Lan is on the threshold of a breakthrough and was the first Vietnamese athlete, alongside football star Nguyễn Quang Hải, to be awarded a full scholarship in business administration from the University of Economics and Business.
Currently, Lan is both studying and running a free fitness centre in Hà Nội with her friends. Most of her time though is spent preparing for her shot at Olympic glory. VNS
In the last two Olympics, Vietnamese track and field athletes have qualified directly. Nguyễn Thị Thanh Phúc and Dương Thị Việt Anh competed in the London Olympics 2012 in walking and the high jump, respectively. While at the Rio Olympics 2016, Nguyễn Thành Ngưng competed in walking and Nguyễn Thị Huyền in the 400m and 400m hurdles.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Vietnamese athletics received wildcards to participate, with Vũ Thị Hương racing in the 100m and Nguyễn Đình Cương in the 800m.
At present, Việt Nam have eight athletes qualified for the Tokyo Olympics including Nguyễn Huy Hoàng (swimming), Lê Thanh Tùng, Đinh Phương Thành (gymnastics), Nguyễn Hoàng Phi Vũ, Đỗ Thị Ánh Nguyệt (archery), Nguyễn Văn Đương (boxing), Lường Thị Thảo and Đinh Thị Hảo (rowing). VNS