|All smiles: Nguyễn Huy Hoàng during a ceremony to honour the Vietnamese sports delegation for their success at the Asian Games. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Huy Hoàng
By Thanh Nga
Young swimmer Nguyễn Huy Hoàng, 18, has written history for Vietnamese swimming following his success at the Asian Games (ASIAD) 2018 recently held in Indonesia where he won one silver and a bronze medal.
Born in the central province of Quảng Bình, Hoàng won a silver in the men’s 1,500m freestyle finishing just three seconds behind Chinese star Sun Yang. His bronze medal came in the men’s 800m freestyle.
Hoàng’s silver medal was a first for Việt Nam at ASIAD, surpassing the two bronze medals won by Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên at ASIAD 2014 held in Incheon, South Korea, in the women’s 200m backstroke and 400m freestyle.
Not afraid of Sun Yang
Hoàng’s silver has been touted “as good as gold” as his rival Sun Yang, 26, is one of top swimmers in the world. Sun is a three-time Olympic winner and nine-time world champion. The Chinese swimmer set a world record in 1,500m at the London Olympics in 2012 that still stands today.
“I faced Sun in 800m and I knew his strengths. Sun took gold medal in this category with a new ASIAD record. I was very comfortable working to my strengths in the 1,500m event. I wasn’t afraid of him and didn’t feel any pressure,” Hoàng said.
“Sun is 1.98m tall, while I am only 1.78m. But that didn’t affect much too me. I knew I had to make every effort and overcome myself and I did. I beat my personal best by 19sec and I am happy with that,” Hoàng added.
His time of 15:01.63 in the 1,500m helped Hoàng break his own Southeast Asian Games record of 15.20.10 which he set in Malaysia last year. It also helped him to become the first male swimmer from Việt Nam to make the Olympic Standard A.
|Decorated: Nguyễn Huy Hoàng’s father, Nguyễn Văn Vinh shows Hoàng’ medal collection. — Photo sohacdn.com
|Podium finish: Nguyễn Huy Hoàng poses with his medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Huy Hoàng
Likes competing with strong rivals
After winning bronze in the 800m event, Hoàng said: “When I began the competition, I was shocked and in a daze because most of the Southeast Asian swimmers were smaller than the other competitors. It’s the first time I’ve competed at ASIAD so I don’t have much experience.”
But I overcame my fear during the race.
“I have learnt much from other Asian swimmers, especially the ability to fight in any situation,” he said.
Hoàng wants to make progress in his career so he is eager to compete against the best there is. He said that his rivals had the biggest influence on his career.
“My rivals have the biggest impact on my career, so the stronger the better.”
Gianh River’s otter
Hoàng was born into a poor family of six children in Thanh Tiến Hamlet, Tuyên Hóa District near the Gianh River.
He is the youngest in the family, and when he was one year old, his parents took him out on a boat to catch fish.
“Hoàng could swim at three years old. We taught him to swim to avoid drowning. He took to it like a duck to water. He could play all day in the water,” said Hoàng’s father, Nguyễn Văn Vinh.
“He could dive to collect water-plants and moss for our small fish farm. Swimming from one side of the river to the other was something he did every day,” Vinh added.
Villagers often called him “otter” because he was very good at swimming and was very dark skinned.
Hoàng was called up to the swimming team at the Tiến Hóa Primary School when he was in Grade 1.
“Hoàng always won medals for his school provincial events. We looked after his medals carefully so he can look back on them in the future,” Vinh said.
Hoàng was called up to the national junior swimming team at the age of 14.
At the age of 15, Hoàng won five gold medals at the SEA Junior Swimming Championships in 400m freestyle, 1,500m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m crawling, and 4x100m relay while breaking three SEA records.
At 16, he surpassed veteran Lâm Quang Nhựt to become national champion in 1,500m.
Last year, he took a gold at the SEA Games in 1,500m and also broke the Games record with a time of 15:20.10.
According to Hoàng, his parents worked very hard to bring up his siblings, so he wants to improve to earn more money to help them.
“Everyday, I review my strong and weak points and research new techniques. I have to train hard to improve so I can help my parents,” Hoàng said. — VNS