A Vietnamese Olympic swimming hopeful is worrying her fans for underperforming at a recent championship in the U.S., as it is merely more than three months away from the Rio 2016 Games.
On Sunday, Nguyen Thi Anh Vien left the Arena Pro Swim Series 2016 in Mesa, Arizona empty-handed, having performed well below her best in all events she competed.
The underperformance is worrisome to Vietnamese fans as the Arena Pro Swim Series 2016 is among the competitions meant for swimmers to prepare for the Olympics in Brazil this summer.
The 20-year-old swimmer only finished 33th out of 34 in the 200m backstroke event on Sunday, the last competition day of the three-day championship. Anh Vien clocked 2:23.44, much slower than her best time of 2:12.25, which earned her the world’s 67th rank by the International Swimming Federation (FINA).
The Vietnamese swimmer was also disqualified from the qualifying round of the 200m individual medley, one of the competition events where she previously secured the ticket to Rio.
Anh Vien has met the Qualification Standards in the 400m individual medley and 400m freestyle, but she performed below her best in these two categories at the Arena Pro Swim Series.
The Vietnamese swimmer finished fourth in the 400m individual medley, touching in 4:44.02, which is still 5.24 seconds slower than her best time of 4:38.78, according to FINA.
What is most worrying to fans is that it took Vien as long as 4:22.10 to touch the wall in the 400m freestyle event, which is 13.44 seconds behind her best result. At the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore, Vien smashed the regional 400m freestyle record by clocking 4:08.66.
A Ho Chi Minh City-based swimming expert said Anh Vien could have put herself under no pressure to win medals at the U.S. competition, as it did not affect her Olympics berth.
“It is less than four months to Rio 2016 and Anh Vien is undergoing a hard training process, so all other competitions she takes part in are only warm-up sessions,” he said.
“What matters after all is that she would perform great at the Olympics.”
However another swimming expert does not agree with his colleague, saying Anh Vien’s performances in the U.S. are much worse than they should be.
“While it is normal for the form of athletes to have ups and downs during the hard training process, it is really a big problem when Anh Vien was more than 13 seconds slower than her best time,” the expert said.
He said that Vien might have had her form affected as coach Dang Anh Tuan, who accompanies the young swimmer in all competition trips, is reportedly parting company with her.
Born in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, Anh Vien is Southeast Asia’s best swimmer, winning eight gold medals and breaking eight records at the 28th SEA Games in Singapore in June 2015.
As the athlete that shoulders Vietnam’s biggest hope for an Olympic medal, local fans are hoping Anh Vien will be in her best form in Brazil.
Nine Vietnamese athletes have so far secured a berth at the upcoming Games, running from August 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro.
Vietnam is entitled to send three weightlifters to the Games, but has yet to decide who will be chosen.
The Southeast Asian country has never won an Olympic medal since 2008, when weightlifter Hoang Anh Tuan snatched a silver in Beijing.
This table shows how Anh Vien has lagged behind herself.