While it is reasonable to expect world-class sports professionals to only focus on competing at higher-level tournaments, a two-time Olympic swimmer is poised to participate in nearly 20 events at Vietnam’s national sports festival.
Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, who swam at London 2012 and Rio 2016, is believed to be invincible at home, but this does not stop her from registering to compete in all of the 17 available individual events at the 2018 National Sports Games, which kicked off on Thursday.
The busy schedule of the 22-year-old swimmer was confirmed by the General Department of Sports and Physical Training at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The news immediately raises eyebrows as Vien, long considered a ‘treasure’ for Vietnam’s swimming, is undoubtedly peerless in the pool at home.
The 1996-born swimmer enjoyed ten different gold medals at the 2011 National Swimming Championship and two silvers at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia the same year, when she was only 15.
Vien also made her Olympics debut as the youngest athlete of Team Vietnam in London 2012, and played her second Olympic journey in Brazil four years later.
Vien seems to have defied backlash from sports insiders, as this is not the first time negative public feedback was directed at Vietnam’s top swimmer, who may easily win every available medal at such a national competition.
In 2016, Dang Anh Tuan, who has been coaching Vien since she was a girl, was criticized for “using a cannon to kill a mosquito” when he insisted Vien compete in all 17 individual events at that year’s National Swimming Championship.
|Vietnam's eight-time gold medalist Nguyen Thi Anh Vien
The General Department of Sports and Physical Training does consider it an issue, but it has yet to come up with any solutions.
Tran Duc Phan, deputy director of the general department, admitted that it is inappropriate for national key athletes, who are entitled to diet and exercise at high standards all year round, to compete with local athletes, who have lower training conditions, at national events.
Still, Phan admitted that the national sports festival’s rules do not limit the number of events an athlete can compete.
“The General Department of Sports and Physical Education knows this inappropriateness and will continue to study more [for a solution] later, not this year’s festival,” Phan told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
At the 2018 National Sports Games, Vien plays for the military sporting unit, along with a world-class teammate, Hoang Xuan Vinh, who won a gold medal in the 10 meter air pistol and a silver in the 50 meter pistol competitions at the 2016 Olympics.
Vinh received the same criticism as the young swimmer as the marksman will compete at these very two events at the national festival.
The 2018 National Sports Games, which takes place every four years, runs from November 15 to December 10.
This year’s edition will be contested by 7,000 athletes in 734 events of 36 sports, according to the organizing board.