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The ‘golden woman’ of Vietnamese athletics

The ‘golden woman’ of Vietnamese athletics

Sunday, May 21, 2023, 19:06 GMT+7
The ‘golden woman’ of Vietnamese athletics
Nguyen Thi Oanh is one of the four outstanding athletes of the Vietnamese sports delegation participating in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Oanh, one of Vietnam’s most elite professional athletes, has overcome both mental and physical obstacles to rise to the top of the Vietnamese sporting scene.

Oanh made history at the 32nd Southteast Asian (SEA) Games on May 9 when she became the first athlete to secure gold medals in both the 1,500m and 3,000m women’s hurdling events.

Just three days later, Oanh found herself once again atop the podium when she brought home another gold medal in the women’s 10,000-meter race. 

She claimed a total of four gold medals at the 32nd SEA Games, hosted by Cambodia from May 5 to May 17.

Oanh, affectionately known in the Southeast Asian running scene as the 'runner without lungs,' is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the event.  

She was born in 1995 in the northern Vietnamese province of Bac Giang, about 50 kilometers from Hanoi.

She is the seventh child in a family of farmers. She developed a love for running in her early teens and, at the age of 15, was offered the opportunity to join the provincial athletics team.

At 17, Oanh was named a member of the national track-and-field team under coach Tran Van Sy. 

She was voted Vietnam's best female track-and-field athlete in 2019 and 2022. She is currently considered one of the most important members of Vietnam’s national team thanks to stunning performances in her four consecutive SEA Games appearances.

In addition to her work as a professional athlete, Oanh runs an online store specializing in clothes and shoes.

But her professional running career has not been without its ups and downs.

While she has long suffered from insomnia, especially while preparing for important competitions, a more sinister health condition almost forced her onto the sidelines permanently.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with acute nephritis which caused her neck and face to swell and could have potentially ended her career. 

Doctors forbid her from eating oily, fatty, and salty foods, leading to a lack of iodide and causing her flexures to shrink. Her disease forced her into a state of depression and caused her severe social anxiety.

After six months of treatment, however, Oanh was able to return to the track.

Now, nine years later, she is considered a symbol of both Vietnamese and Southeast Asian athletics.

At the SEA Games 32 in Cambodia in 2023, Nguyen Thi Oanh sets a new record by winning two gold medals in only about 30 minutes, the first of its kind in the history of Vietnamese sports. Photo: Nam Tran

At the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia, Nguyen Thi Oanh set a new record by winning two gold medals in only about 30 minutes, the first of its kind in the history of Vietnamese sports. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

Oanh is the first athlete in history to win four gold medals at a SEA Games edition.

"The exhausting and challenging schedule of the races became a source of momentum that forced me to do my best and burst into joyful emotions when I won," Oanh said at an exchange with the youth in Ho Chi Minh City.

"This is what I wanted to achieve for Vietnamese sports."

Throughout the 10,000-meter race where she won her fourth gold, Oanh held on to the lead amid enthusiastic cheers from teammates, media, and Vietnamese spectators who were watching and cheering her on at the Morodok Techo Stadium.

In the final stages of the race, she quickened her pace at the front to leave her opponents far behind and took first place in 35:11:53.

With her gold medal in the 10,000-meter category, Oanh contributed four of the 12 gold medals won by the Vietnamese track-and-field team.

Profile of Nguyen Thi Oanh

. Full name: Nguyen Thi Oanh

. Date of birth: 15-8-1995

. Place of birth: My Ha Commune, Lang Giang District, Bac Giang Province, Vietnam

. Member of the Vietnamese Athletics Team

. Categories: 3,000-meter steeplechase, 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.

. Height: 1.53 meters

* Top performances

. Silver medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2013 SEA Games

. Gold medals in the 1500-meter and 5000-meter races at the 2017 SEA Games

. Gold medals in the 1500-meter run, 3000-meter steeplechase, and 5000-meter run at the 2021 SEA Games

. Bronze medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2018 Asian Games

* Titles

. Top four athletes at the 2021 SEA Games

. 2019 Female Athlete of The Year in Vietnam

. 2022 Female Athlete of The Year in Vietnam

. Top ten most outstanding young people in Vietnam in 2019

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