Đinh Phương Thành leapt high and landed perfectly. He was nervous waiting for the result and jumped high to celebrate his highest points in the parallel bars event.
Thành had just overcome the world champion Carlos Yulo of the Philippines to defend his title.
A little far from the competition floor, a small old white-haired woman looked on and aggressively cheered for his victory. 86-year-old Nguyễn Thị Anh Thư is Thành’s grandmother. It was the first time she had an opportunity to watch and encourage her grandson to compete in person.
She not only saw Thành winning once but twice on May 16.
A few minutes after the event, the Tokyo Olympian shared top place with Yulo in the horizontal bar event after an amazing performance from both competitors.
“I am happy when my family comes and supports me. Since I have practised gymnastics, it is the first time grandmother could come and watch me in an international competition,” Thành said.
“Her presence was a big push for me. It is great to know that a big family is backing me. And I believe that I have made her happy too.”
Thành has lived far from his family since he was 7 years old back in 2002. He was one of the talented athletes picked to be trained in China to be one of Việt Nam’s key gymnasts.
After eight years in China, 15-year-old Thành returned home and began his professional athlete life.
He gained a bronze medal from the Asian Games in South Korea in 2014; four golds from the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore; two each from the 2017 Games in Malaysia and 2019 Games in the Philippines.
He was also one of two gymnasts representing Việt Nam at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Gymnasts have to practise different events such as vault, pommel horse, rings and the floor. Among these, horizontal bars and parallel bars are his favourites that he performed the best and most of his titles are from these events.
Competing in the SEA Games 31, Thành is also one of the two most experienced athletes in the team who is expected to win four golds on home turf.
Coach Trương Minh Sang said that his team was on the way to rejuvenating. Many young talents were trained and would shine soon. However, Thành and World Cup winner Lê Thanh Tùng were still the team’s core.
Although competing at home, Thành and his teammates faced strong threats from rivals from other countries, especial Filipino star Yulo who has reached a global level.
Yulo showed his domination at the last SEA Games, where he earned two golds and five silvers. He arrived in Hà Nội aiming to double this title
Learning by heart the saying “practise makes perfect”, Thành has focused totally on training with an iron mind.
“My teammates and I have worked hard to prepare for the Games. We are doing the final touches to perfect my performance. We hope to defend our titles, and I will do my best in my favourites,” Thành said at the Việt Nam’s sending off ceremony two weeks before the Games.
And he did a good job.
On the first day of gymnastics, Việt Nam outclassed all others in the men’s team all-round.
Yulo, despite being a genius, could not lift the whole team alone, and they came second.
The Filipino shone brilliantly over the next two days as he grabbed titles in the all-round, floor exercise, rings and vault. With his amazing show, the 22-year-old threatened to dominate the last events.
But the last day was Thành’s.
He completed his performance with high-level technical moves in the parallel bars so that no one could deny a gold medal for him with 15.113 points. Yulo placed second with 14.900
In the horizontal bar, Thành garnered as many 13.867 points, the same as the pint-sized Yulo, and their outstanding performances pushed them both to the top of the podium.
“Thousands of supporters held their breath to watch their performance. Yulo had a more difficult move, but Thành’s performance was more smooth, and his hand shape on the bars was more beautiful,” said Hoàng Quốc Vinh, head of Việt Nam Sports Administration’s Elite Sport Department 1.
“The referees could not determine who was better because they both deserved gold.”
It was Yulo’s fifth title and Thành’s third one. Thành also secured a bronze medal in the all-round event. The results made them the most bemedaled athlete of their delegations.
“After three days, we have earned four golds, two silvers and five bronzes. My men have done a much better job than planned,” said coach Sang.
“Thành is an important athlete. He not only played a key role in the team but also helped young athletes to be more confident this Games.”
At the age of 27, Thành is still a core of the Việt Nam team in upcoming tournaments, including the Asian championship next month in Qatar and the SEA Games 32 in Cambodia next year. VNS