Vietnam News

No excuses for Asian Games failure

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Duong Duc Thuy, Vietnam’s former national athletics division head, says that inconsistency, improper distribution of funding and a lack of professionalism caused Vietnamese athletes to fail at the Asian Games.

Vietnam’s poor performance at the Games in China won them not a single medal in any athletics event. The result disappointed the nation after Vietnam won a gold, two silver and three bronze medals in track and field events at the 2018 Asian Games.

“I was shocked because I didn’t expect Vietnamese athletics to go downhill like this,” said Thuy. “We used to have a good foundation but then we got inconsistent and lost focus. We kept talking about difficulties but didn’t figure out the causes or find any solutions.”

At this year’s Asian Games, Vietnam put their highest expectations on the women’s 4x400m event as the national team won the Asian Athletics Championship (AAC) gold not long ago.

Although this Games’ squad finished at 3 minutes and 31.61 seconds, faster than when they won the AAC (3 minutes and 32.36 seconds), it still wasn’t enough for them to medal.

“We faced really strong opponents,” Thuy said. “Our athletes and tactics remained the same, but the opponents’ levels were above us. Bahrain finished first in 3 minutes and 27.67, while we never got below 3 minutes and 30 seconds.”

He went on to explain that two young athletes were under pressure.

“I’m also concerned about the case of Nguyen Thi Huyen. Her strength is not the 400m relay, but they still had her compete [in that event]. They should let her focus on our key event which is the women’s 4×400.”

Star runner Nguyen Thi Oanh also faced the same problem, as she had to compete in too many different events instead of focusing on one, according to Thuy. As a result, she failed in all three events and couldn’t win a medal, he said.

These results were also particularly disappointing because Vietnam dominated and won SEA Games 31, and also finished second at SEA Games 32. However, they placed behind other Southeast Asian teams at this year’s Asian Games.

Thuy pointed out another reason for the steep decline:

“Vietnam are playing a game of their own. Athletics federations in other countries have full control while we are still being managed by the state. The result is poor facilities and competition quality. I’m in Singapore now and I see their secondary school running track is equivalent to our provincial-level arena. Their high schools have standard tracks for running, hammer throwing and disc throwing, as well as gyms and instructors.”

In Vietnam, even the national sports training center doesn’t have such facilities, he pointed out.

“If you go there [the center] now, you can still see the old rusty equipment that we used for training decades ago,” Thuy added.

He also compared the difference between the previous generation of athletes to Vietnam’s current competitors.

“Athletes these days don’t have much awareness. When I was still competing, I used to record and keep track of everything that I did. No athlete does that now. In the past, when we lost, we often reflected on ourselves to find out the reasons why. But nowadays, when they lose, they do nothing about it. During our old training days, we would read everything we could to help us get better. The new generation doesn’t do that, even though they have the Internet, smartphones and tablets.”

Some critics have said that Vietnamese athletics stumbled at Asian Games due to poor nutrition and low budgets for local sports programs.

“Nutrition is an important factor,” said Thuy. “At the moment, we are eating to get full instead of eating healthy. Top athletes need a really strict diet. We cannot feed athletes like normal people. Don’t just get full, but eat well, get good food suitable for competitors. Regarding our financial issues, we must actively promote sports programs, actively find resources, and not rely solely on the budget provided by the state.”

The future of Vietnamese athletes looks grim in Thuy’s view, as the next generation of runners is nowhere to be found.

“To be honest, we have nothing to expect at the 2024 Olympic Paris. None of our athletes reached the standard qualifying time. What I’m more worried about is the 2025 SEA Games in Thailand. The host is our number one competitor and they will leave us far behind. Our athletes will be old by then, and we won’t have replacements,” he said.

The former coach suggested a few solutions that could improve Vietnamese athletics in the long run.

“Firstly, we must reflect on our failure. Stop making excuses,” Thuy said. “People say that our athletes were sick so they couldn’t perform well. Why didn’t you say that before competing, so that everyone could understand and sympathize?”

Secondly, he said that Vietnam has to make sure that athletes are professional and committed.

“For older athletes, we should ask them if they are really determined to continue so that we can invest properly. We have to be strict with the athletes. A team is like an army and the athletes are the soldiers. Without discipline, there’s no power.”

Last but not least, Thuy argued that athletic program leaders must also be more responsible.

“When I was the head of the division, a reporter asked me how many medals we would win at the SEA Games and I told him the exact number. He asked what if I couldn’t do it, and I answered that I would quit. It can be really dangerous if leaders don’t take responsibility.”

One of the current problems with Vietnamese athletics is finding new talent, as well as encouraging children to develop their passion for sports.

“If we want to find athletes who are 11-12 years old, we have to start at the school-level and work with our physical education teachers…most children like football nowadays and they idolized star players.”

But, according to Thuy, Vietnamese athletics programs are doing a poor job of promoting their athletes’ images.

“The Vietnam Athletics Federation doesn’t even have a division for this. I think we need to make athletes famous, like beauty queens, and have them do charity work and interact with young people. If we succeed, we can foster the love for athletics in the younger generation, like what Singapore did with star swimmer Joseph Schooling,” he said

By Lam Thoa – – October 12, 2023

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