|Volley: Việt Nam’s badminton legend Nguyễn Tiến Minh will take part in the Olympic Games this summer in Brazil. VNS Photos|
By Thanh Hà
There are some badminton players from around the world who are regarded as true legends, and this elite group has been in the forefront of the game for many years.
They have played with style and brilliance that has captivated spectators in tournaments around the world, and have remained at the top of the world rankings for more than a decade.
Audiences around the world cherish the memories of the breath-taking rallies and thrilling matches that these players have competed in. It will not be an exaggeration to say that they have helped shape the history of the game as it is played today.
Nguyễn Tiến Minh may not have reached that level, but in Việt Nam he is really a legend, a big status on the national badminton scene.
The 33-year-old will take part in his third Olympic Games in a row this summer in Brazil.
With this remarkable achievement Minh has set a record in the national sporting history as the first ever sportsman to represent Việt Nam in three Olympics.
“It is the largest sporting event in the world, and it is every sportsman’s dream to take part in it once in a lifetime. It is my third time so the happiness is multiplied three times and I am the first Vietnamese to do that,” Minh said.
He took part in the Beijing Games in 2008 as the world No 28 and was stopped in the second round by Chinese Taipei Hsieh Yu-Hsing, “because I did not understand why I could not control my hands, so I could not play the way I wanted”.
Four years later, the No 10 seed failed to advance to the knockout round in London, losing to Belgian Yuhan Tan, who had never played as outstandingly in previous meetings.
Now it was time to delete those unhappy memories of the first two occasions, he said.
“I am confident that my technique has improved a lot, but my physique will not be as good as it was eight years ago, and I am 33 now. From now until August I will have to focus on this weak point,” Minh, who reached his best as the World No 5 in 2010 and 2013, said.
Another difficulty for the player, is that he is the top player in the nation, so it is hard for him to find a suitable sparring partner to help him sharpen his skills.
“I really need someone who is as good as me to train everyday with me just as foreign players do for better results. I hope to solve the problem in the next weeks, so that I am nearly perfect for my third Games in Rio,” Minh said.
The HCM City-born athlete will also take part in several tournaments in Australia and New Zealand to warm up for the Rio Games which will kick off on August 5.
Introduced to badminton by his father at the age of 10, Minh was immediately captivated by the sport. The interest soon developed into a passion which made Minh decide to turn professional at the age of 18, ignoring his parents’ wishes to receive an academic education.
He was called to serve the national team in the same year and quickly set up his domination that has continued until now.
Việt Nam has never been a country of badminton, but Minh could not have broken into the game globally without the strong support of the local badminton authority and the national federation, as well as his well-off family.
Minh received financial aid to take part in various regional and international events which pushed him up the world ranking.
In his international career, Minh has won 15 titles and has been runners-up on six occasions, apart from a world championship bronze medal in 2013, which lifted him to the world top 5.
His latest gold medal was at the Sydney International Challenge last year before he finished second at the Finnish Open last month.
He was voted one of 10 best players of the year in 2004, 2007, 2008, and received the Labour Order, third class, in 2011.
However, badminton did not only bring him glory, it also helped him find true love.
In the national team, while Minh had been preparing by himself, he also took responsibility of guiding the younger generation, of which Vũ Thị Trang was the rising star. She is the No 1 female badminton player in the country.
The two teammates then forged a common bond and understanding, and also fell in love. Their love was only made public in 2014.
Trang will also join him to compete at the Rio event in the women’s singles category.
The couple have decided that they would do their best to prepare for the Games and then get married after that when Minh announces his retirement.
“Like every sportsman, I have already thought about retirement and have been taking part in coaching courses so that I can begin working as a coach in the near future. I have my own business but training talents is my first choice,” he said.
Minh has recently agreed to be a consultant at the NutiFood Sport Talents Academy which will kick-off next month.
He will work as a talent scout in badminton. He will also conduct training programmes, and invite foreign experts to work at the academy, which also provides general education for attendees. VNS