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​Vietnam’s ‘golden girl’ eyes cycling gold at 2018 Asian Games

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 15:14 GMT+7

Nguyen Thi That, the ‘golden girl’ of Vietnam’s road cycling team, has set her eyes on a gold medal at the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia in August, after having dominated regional competitions in recent years.

That started off 2018 with a historic gold medal at the 2018 Asian Cycling Championships in Myanmar in February, finishing 106 kilometers in under three hours and 12 minutes.

The feat brought her Vietnam’s first-ever gold medal in women’s road cycling at Asian levels, but That said she still lacked a gold medal at the Asian Games to perfect her collection.

“I will be in Switzerland in March for an intensive training course to prepare for the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia,” she said.

Nguyen Thi That launched her international career into the spotlight in 2014 at the age of 21 when she won a silver medal at the 17th Asian Games in South Korea.

Following long-term training programs in South Korea and Switzerland offered by the International Cycling Union (UCI), That rose to the top of her game in Southeast Asia, winning two gold medals at the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia.

Good coordination as a team is key to winning in road cycling events, but That’s powerful individual sprints that she could pull off even without the help from teammates was what made her stand out among other Asian female cyclists.

A renowned cycling team from Italy has extended an invitation for That to race in their uniform, but the young girl said she needed to focus on the 2018 Asian Games before considering signing any international contracts.

“If the Italian team is still interested in hiring me after the 2018 Asian Games, I will take the offer into serious consideration, as it has always been my dream to compete at an international level,” That said.

Vietnamese cyclist Nguyen Thi That (R) and her coach Ngo Quoc Tien. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vietnamese cyclist Nguyen Thi That (R) and her coach Ngo Quoc Tien. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Journey to the top

That’s journey in competitive cycling began over ten years ago when her current coach Ngo Quoc Tien discovered her talent and spent months convincing the girl’s parents to allow her to become a professional athlete.

“He saw what I had in me after seeing me racing with other kids in my hometown,” That said.

“It was not until I stepped into an athlete’s path that I found myself overwhelmed by all the challenges of training and living away from home at such a young age. Tien was the one that helped me through those times,” she added.

Tien was a professional cyclist himself, being the ‘king’ of mountain cycling during his prime over two decades ago.

“Apart from raw talent, what That possesses that makes her successful as a cyclist is her perseverance and love for the sport. With more international experience, I believe That will continue to reach new heights,” Tien said.

“The offer from the Italian team is proof of her capabilities,” he added.

Life-changing accident

That has a younger sister, Nguyen Thi Tha, whom she trained alongside during her early days competing for a cycling team based in southern An Giang Province.

Tha was herself a talent in road cycling, having snatched a national gold medal and competed in many international tourneys.

However, a serious accident at the National Cycling Championships in 2014 left Tha permanently injured and forced her to retire from competitive cycling.

“Now every time I race, I tell myself that I’m racing for my younger sister as well and put in double the effort,” That explained.

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