HÀ NỘI — Lương Đức Phước secured a hattrick of gold medals at the HCM City Athletics Open tournament, marking his first time winning an official seniors tournament in the national competition system.
The 20-year-old athlete crossed the line in first place in the men’s 800m, 1,500m and 4x800m categories at the Thống Nhất Stadium on Saturday.
His win strongly persuaded officials and supporters that his recent SEA Games’ 1,500m gold medal was by no means a fluke.
“I was assigned to take part in three events and expected to take three titles. My missions are completed,” Phước said.
“However, I am not satisfied with the results. I need to practise harder for better times.”
A surprising winner
Over the last two years, Trần Văn Đảng took the limelight after defeating multi-time SEA Games champion Dương Văn Thái to dominate the men’s 800m and 1,500m events.
Đảng’s wins made such big headlines that Phước disappeared into the background, although he secured bronze and silver medals in these events. However, it was enough for him to earn a place on the national team for the 31st SEA Games.
Last month, all eyes were on Đảng who was expected to maintain Việt Nam’s long domination in both events of the SEA Games.
Phước was in the middle of the bunch most time in the 1,500m race. It seemed he would fail to win again, especially when Đảng sped up and took the lead, and headed to the finish.
However, Phước’s amazing sprint in the last 100m was enough to finish first in his regional debut.
“This gold was a surprise to me. I can’t believe that I have won, it was my best ever achievement,” Phước told reporters after celebrating in front of the stands.
The Đồng Nai Province-born athlete added: “Prior to the event, I never thought I had a chance of beating my senior teammate Đảng. I just told myself to run as close to him as possible and beat my personal best. My coach also asked me to run my best.
“I tried to follow my plan throughout the race. In the last 120m, I thought it was time and sprinted faster to pass all rivals to the finish.”
“This gold was unexpected. It was special because it was my first SEA Games title in my first Games participation. It was unbelievable but it made me confident in my ability,” said Phước who has trained as a professional for almost four years.
Previously, he secured his first international gold at the Singapore Open’s 1,500m and a bronze in the 800m in 2019.
“The Singapore Open marked my international debut,” he said.
“The 31st SEA Games was my first regional meet in my first time called to the national team. These first times were all great to me and were my meaningful milestones in my career.”
Phước’s Games title was also honoured by Việt Nam’s Chief-de-Mission Trần Đức Phấn.
“I am impressed by his win the most among more than 200 victories of Việt Nam in this Games,” Phấn said.
“I watched the race from the beginning, I saw him surpassing all other runners, going from zero to hero. He showed his strong grit and great determination. I really, really admired him.”
Phước’s next competition will be the National Sports Games in November in Quảng Ninh Province where the SEA Games champion will face strong rivals like national champion Đảng and former SEA Games winner Thái. But it is an opportunity for him to prove his May’s victory was by his real ability.
“I will focus on the 1,500m. I will have to lift my time up. The SEA Games title was just the beginning. I can’t rest on my laurels. I have to prove myself a title favourite in the tournaments in the future.” — VNS