A Vietnamese girl known for her towering height has made a name for herself as a professional volleyball player who is hunted for by both local and regional clubs.
Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, 21, would attract curious looks from her classmates and teachers when she was younger due to her unusual height.
At the age of 12, Thuy was already 1.78 meters tall – about the same height as her father and even taller than her mother, who measures merely 1.58 meters.
An average Vietnamese woman is 1.53 meters tall, according to the Ministry of Health.
Thuy made her debut in the women’s national volleyball team of Vietnam at 16, when she had grown taller than 1.90 meters.
Now 21 years old and 1.93 meters tall, Thuy’s name has been better known, having played for clubs in Thailand and Taiwan apart from her professional career in the Vietnamese team.
Going and growing
Thai volleyball club Bangkok Glass’s 2016 offer to have Thuy play for the team took local sports experts by surprise, as only two other Vietnamese volleyball legends had received invites to play for a foreign team before her.
“I felt homesick for the first few days, as everything was so different from how things were in Vietnam, from the food to the culture,” Thuy said.
Her biggest challenge, she said, was the language barrier. In Thailand, her ‘savior’ was coach Kittipong Pornchartyingcheep, who had worked with her in Vietnam and was able to help her communicate with teammates.
“It was a whole different story when I came to Taiwan to play for Attack Line, as they all spoke English,” Thuy recounted her story.
“An introvert that I was, I couldn’t make many friends and was only able to vaguely grasp what our coach was saying.”
|Tran Thi Thanh Thuy (L) plays for Vietnam in a match against South Korea at the 2017 Asian Women's Volleyball Championship in Manila, Philippines. Photo: AVC
Despite such difficulties, Thuy said she had improved greatly thanks to her time spent playing for the international clubs.
“In Thailand, I was trained to maintain a strong mentality to play under tremendous pressure from the spectators, while the time in Taiwan helped diversify my playing styles,” she said.
Most importantly, according to Thuy’s Vietnamese coach Nguyen Quoc Vu, the once silent girl has learned to open herself up to others and contribute to the team with her opinions.
“Thuy now communicates a lot with her teammates and even cheers for them on the court,” Vu said.
“Before, you wouldn’t get a word out of her even if she was forced to speak.”
According to Thuy, even her own family could not explain how she was able to reach such a height.
“It’s definitely not in my genes, and both my father and mother are much shorter than me,” she said.
“I was also raised with a regular diet that any other kid my age would get.”
Neither of her parents are professional athletes.
Her father is a transport official while her mother is a schoolteacher.