Rowers set new challenges after Asian Games success

ASIAD is now over for the rowers, but they will have not much time to relax. The 2024 Paris Olympic Games is approaching, and they will have to take part in qualification for tickets to France.

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PROUD:Veteran rower Phạm Thị Thảo (left) and her teammates celebrate their bronze medal in the women’s coxless fours during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhous, China, on September 25. Photos of Sports Authotiry of Việt Nam

Thanh Hà

Tears were in their eyes and on their faces.

They cried for happiness, success, and to celebrate their own achievement and first medals of Việt Nam at the current 19th Asian Games (ASIAD) in Hangzhou, China.

It was Phạm Thị Thảo’s fourth time at the continent’s largest sporting event. She and three teammates won a bronze in the women’s quadruple sculls.

Meanwhile, Hà Thị Vui took part in the Games for the first time. Her bronze came as her biggest ever birthday present, after her eight-member squad finished third in the women’s eight at the Fuyang Water Sports Centre on September 24.

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PERFECT PRESENT: Hà Thị Vui and her bronze medal on her birthday on September 24 at Hangzhou ASIAD Games. Photo

One veteran and one freshwoman contributed to Việt Nam’s 14th place in the medal tally after two days.

The duo arrived home on Tuesday under the warm welcome of sport leaders and their relatives. Having several days rest, they will begin training for the tournament ahead, in which both promised to get better results.

Oldest star

Thảo is the oldest member of the rowing team. At 34, she has been serving the national squad for 16 years. She has taken part in almost all prestigious international tournaments and won a number of medals in her career.

However, the Hangzhou Games’ bronze was still something special, moving her deeply.

“It is my fourth time in the continental Games. This is a bronze, but it still has its own value and marks a milestone in my career,” Thảo told reporters after the awards ceremony.

Thảo and teammates were informed that they would not have the chance to defend their title in the lightweight quadruple sculls, as the category was not included in the competition list.

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AWESOME FOURSOME: Veteran rower Phạm Thị Thảo (left) and her teammates seen during their competition at the Fuyang Water Sports Centre in Hangzhou, China, on September 25.

They had to switch to the new class of quadruple sculls, a heavier weight category with a different technique.

“It was not easy to suddenly change to a new discipline. It was coaches and friends who encouraged and urged us to practise and strengthen our determination,” said Thảo who has thought about retirement several times to take care of her family.

“It was my husband looking after my two kids when I was away from home for training and now for competing.

“My teammates and I supported each other, and we told ourselves not to give up. If we could reach a higher result, it would be great. But this bronze reflects our strong effort and bravery. A bronze, but worth more than a gold to me,” Thảo said.

The Thái Bình Province native has now collected one gold, one silver and three bronze medals in ASIAD.

The rower, who is famed for almost drowning during training because she could not swim, was a big name in the regional SEA Games, which she has championed seven times.

Thảo, who still can’t swim well now, made her milestone after qualified for two Olympics in a row, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Medal for wedding party

A day earlier than Thảo, Vui made her debut at ASIAD. She played hard in her competition and tasted the happiness of a medal winner on her 24th birthday.

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TEAM EFFORT: Hà Thị Vui (2nd right) and teammates compete in the women’s coxless fours event.

“This is the most meaningful present in my career. I am honoured and proud to earn a bronze for Việt Nam,” said Vui who secured a berth in the national team after winning three gold medals at the National Sports Games.

“It is emotional that I can celebrate my birthday and my podium at the same time, my happiness is doubled.”

Nine months ago, Vui dreamed of winning a medal in Hangzhou.

She has now made it, and said that the bronze medal would be given to her fiancé Nguyễn Văn Hà, a member of the men’s team, to inspire him in his competition. While Hà did not succeed, a day later Vui pocketed her second bronze in the women’s eight event. After the victory ceremony, Vui announced their long-awaited wedding party.

“We have plans to tie the knot at the end of this year. These medals will be our best wedding gifts,” said Vui, a two-time SEA Games champion.

ASIAD is now over for the rowers, but they will have not much time to relax. The 2024 Paris Olympic Games is approaching, and they will have to take part in qualification for tickets to France.

“Our athletes will have to prepare for the Paris event. There are qualifiers held in early 2024,” said Nguyễn Hải Đường, general secretary of the Việt Nam Rowing and Canoeing Federation.

“Their medals in Hangzhou will motivate them, and I hope that they will all earn direct berths to Paris.”

Theo Vietnamnews