Vietnam’s first-ever Olympic gold, inevitable or accidental?

Hanoi, Aug 12 (IANS) Vietnamese marksman Hoang Xuan Vinh won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for Vietnam on the opening day of the ongoing Rio Olympics’ events and in doing so prompted many local sports experts to maintain it was no fluke but the inevitable result of Vietnamese sports development.

Early on Sunday morning local time here, Vinh won the gold in the men’s 10m air pistol event. On Wednesday night, he managed to earn a silver in the men’s 50m pistol event, reports Xinhua.

Vietnam started attending the Olympics in 1980 after its reunification. Since then and ahead of the Rio Olympics, Vietnam has won two silver medals.

Several people said Vinh’s success was merely an accidental result, mainly thanks to the shooting event’s new rules. However, looking at sports development in Vietnam, it is inevitable.

According to Vietnam’s sports development plan by 2020, with a vision to 2030, approved by the government in 2013, Vietnam planned to send 30-40 athletes to the Olympics in 2016, with the tactic being to win two medals. During the 2020-2030 period, the country will gain 30-50 Olympic berths, and will earn more than two medals, including one gold, according to the latest plan.

This plan puts an end to 10 years of indecisive investment. Previously, many local sports officials said Vietnam should focus investment in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and does not need to set up a long-term sports development strategy, while few others stated that Asian Games (ASIAD) and Olympics should be the country’ s priority.

After the lacklustre performance at the 2010 ASIAD and 2012 London Olympics, Vietnam has focused its investment on some 50 talented athletes potentially competing in 20 Olympics events. Hoang Xuan Vinh is on the list.

In a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua, the head of Vietnam’s General Department of Sports and Physical Training, Vuong Bich Thang, attributed Vietnam’ s breakthrough at the Rio Olympics to the country’s choice of sports events which are suitable for Vietnamese people and their strengths.

In the past, Vietnam focused on Olympic sports that require particular skills such as shooting and archery, as well as events less popular in the country, including table tennis, tennis, judo, short-distance track and field events and swimming, among others.

Thang said this is the right path for the country as many Vietnamese athletes have gained Olympic slots in these events.

According to Vietnam’s sports development strategy ahead of 2020, the country has also paid due attention to sports requiring mass involvement.

In 2015, Vietnam launched an Olympic Day Run for public health as part of the campaign on following President Ho Chi Minh’s example of physical training and sports.

“Vietnam always focuses on developing mass participation sports to promote public health and improve physical strength. This is also a foundation to develop high performance sports. From mass sports campaigns, we can find talented athletes for further training,” Thang told Xinhua.

The improvement in the economic situation of Vietnam has also helped to fuel sports investment.

Vice-president of Vietnam’s Olympic Committee, Hoang Vinh Giang, told Xinhua that the country’s investment for sports has been increasing. Vietnam has invited foreign coaches to train Vietnamese athletes, improved nutrition, healthcare and training conditions for athletes, invested more in sports equipment, and sent athletes overseas for training, Giang said.

Statistics from Vietnam’s National Sports Training Center showed that Vietnam invested 48 billion Vietnamese dong (more than 2.1 million U.S. dollars) in Rio Olympics training.

Nguyen Thi Tat, a local shooting coach who has had over 30 years of experience in the field, told Xinhua that local shooters have to undergo training all year round and receive allowances during their training.

Before any tournament, athletes will have at least two or three months of intensive training, including overseas training, Tat said. Ahead of the Rio Olympics, Vinh was sent to South Korea for training.

Thus, proper planning, the right selection of strategies, solid support of sports involving mass participation and increased investment, have brought success to Vietnamese sports.

The silver medal in the men’s 50m pistol event, or Vinh’s second medal at the Rio Olympics, has also underscored the fact that his own ability and strength contributed to the inevitability of his success.

During training, Vinh, who is a serviceman, can stand still for two consecutive hours without talking or moving. And with only 100 bullets for practice each day, one-fifth of the bullets of his foreign peers receive, Vinh has also achieved an extraordinary psychological side, which enhances the quality of his marksmanship.

“This has further shown his talent and efforts,” Hoang Vinh Giang stated.



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