|Coach Trương Minh Sang (centre) and his gymnasts Đinh Phương Thành (right) and Lê Thanh Tùng (left) are ready for their first ever Olympics in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of Việt Nam Olympics Team|
HÀ NỘI — Đinh Phương Thành jumps up on the parallel bar and makes a 180-degree pirouette, salto, front toss and straddle during practice at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre. He is putting the final touches on his routine for his first-ever Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
"I am in a good mood and ready to take part in the Olympics," said the former World Cup winner Thành.
Along with 26-year-old teammate Lê Thanh Tùng the two Vietnamese athletes will compete against nearly 100 rivals in gymnastics.
"My physique and technique are perfect for a good performance. At the first Olympics, my biggest goal is to overcome my limitations. I want to carry out what I have practised smoothly to ensure I achieve the best result I can," he said.
|Gymnast Đinh Phương Thành hopes to shine in the parallel bars and the horizontal bar events. Photo baogiaothong.vn|
Born in 1995, in Hà Nội, Thành spent years practising in China before returning home and becoming one of the most talented gymnasts in Việt Nam. He has carried the hope of the nation in all Southeast Asian Games since his first competition in 2015.
Since then he has won titles in three Games with a total of eight titles. Among them are two golds in the parallel and horizontal bars in which Thành defeated world champion Carlos Yulo of the Philippines.
“It is a really unforgettable memory in my career. I was very happy because I passed a big rival and myself also,” Thành recalled.
The 1.70m athlete also pocketed a bronze from the Asian Games' parallel bars in 2014 which was the national milestone in the continental competition. He also bagged a gold in the parallel bars from the World Challenge Cup in Hungary in 2016.
Pundit Đặng Việt Cường said he believes Thành has what it takes to win.
"He was the most comprehensive one in Việt Nam's gymnastics. He has unique characteristics, a strong mind and great passion," Cường said.
"He is 26 but has been practising gymnastics for 19 years. I believe that the Olympics will be a hallmark performance that will see him explode on the scene, especially in the parallel bars" he said.
Meanwhile retired athlete Phạm Phước Hưng also appreciated his former teammate saying hard-working Thành has a strong mind which helps him stay focused.
"I don't know how the tournament will go prior to the tournament but I will always strive for better results," said Thành whose best score was 77,465 points (all-around event) at the 2019 world championship which brought him a berth in the Tokyo Games.
|World Cup winner Lê Thanh Tùng is expected to shine in the vault event. Photo nld.com.vn|
Minutes after Thành, Tùng took a turn at the vault which is his strongest among all of the gymnastics events.
Tùng also practised for eight years in China but his career was not as smooth as that of his teammate.
He struggled to find his berth in local tournaments before his efforts and abilities were recognised with golds in the SEA Games and a World Cup silver in 2013, all in the vault.
Four years later, the 25-year-old reached his peak with gold medals from the World Cup, Asian Championships and 29th SEA Games.
He also earned silver from the 2018 World Cup, and a bronze in the Asian Championship and three bronzes from the 30th SEA Games in 2019.
"All the best gymnasts have been here and I hope I will get a good result in this Olympics. The pressure is on but competing for the nation is my pride," said Tùng.
|Coach Trương Minh Sang takes care of his gymnasts. There are two Vietnamese representative in this sports who will compete on July 24. Photo courtesy of Việt Nam Olympics Team|
Việt Nam's chances
Coach Trương Minh Sang believes his athletes will rank high at the Olympics if they perform as well as in practice.
"International tournaments and training courses were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have strongly affected our preparation in terms of both technique and spirit," said Sang.
The former SEA Games champion said social distancing had given his athletes time to sharpen their skills while the coaching board made plans to adapt to the new situation.
Internal competition and talks were organised to push gymnasts' competitiveness and mentality.
"Winning berths at the Olympics is wonderful. It is the first time that Việt Nam has two representatives in one Games which is different from other tournaments in which they have taken part. We all want them to do their best here.”
"The quality of athletes at the Olympics is really high. We plan to do it step by step, the first one is to qualify for the finals. Then we will make a plan for the next phase," said Sang.
"Thành is good at parallel bars. He is quiet and calm. He has a stable mind and can keep up with the rhythm of his performance. Meanwhile, Tùng is a master of the vault. He is sharp and agile. In the vault, speed and in-time explosions are important and Tùng has them.
"Each of my athletes has their own strong points which will help them be successful in tournaments." VNS