Small in stature, but huge in ability

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Athletics

Nguyễn Thị Hằng takes the baton from her teammate in the women’s 4x800m relay event at the National Athletics Championship on December 9 in Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Triệu VIệt Linh

Thanh Hà

HÀ NỘI They say good things come in small packages, and that’s certainly the case with athlete Nguyễn Thị Hằng.

When standing among her peers, the 1.58m tall Hanoian is dwarfed compared to those around her. But she sure made a big statement at the National Athletics Championship this month, winning medals in all seven events she entered.

She won three golds in the 4x200m, 4x800m and mixed 4x400m relays. Other medals were silvers in the 400m individual and 4x400m and a bronze in the 4x100m.

Hằng came away from the tournament with almost too many medals to carry!

She told Việt Nam News: “I registered most events among all athletes in this year championship. Prior to the competitions, I worked hard and hoped to take part and run well in up to six events. But luckily, I ran in all seven and surprisingly won medals in all of them.

“I am still really happy almost two weeks after the tournament for what I have achieved. It is a big thank to my coaches, doctors and teammates who strongly encouraged and supported me.

“I thought that if I ran in less events, my time in the rest would definitely better but it was good that I could test my individual abilities when running in different distances.”

Despite winning so many medals, Hằng knows there is room for improvement. In the 400m individual she was pipped at the post by her rival SEA Games champion Nguyễn Thị Huyền of Nam Định.

Huyền was also part of the relay team that won gold the 4x400m, forcing Hằng’s team into second place.

Nguyễn Thị Hằng (right) chases rival Nguyễn Thị Huyền in the women’s 4x400m relay event at the National Athletics Championship on December 12 in Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Triệu VIệt Linh

She said: “I must say sorry to teammates because they did their good well in previous laps but I did not run as fast as needed to defend our 4x400m title this year.

“But I promise that I will train harder to claim it back next year. Huyền is my toughest rival and I will try to beat her someday to have my own individual gold.

“This year’s achievements will help to lift me up in my career, especially at the SEA Games in Hà Nội.”

SEA Games champion

Born in 1997 in Ba Vì District, Hà Nội, Hằng was a dynamic and active student at school before winning a city sport tournament’s 400m run when she was 15 in 2012.

Her love for athletics grew and five years later she became a member of the national team.

Hằng, whose idol is American world champion Allyson Felix, was extremely proud when she got the nod to represent her country.

“Being a national team athlete is an honour for everyone,” she said.

“Coaches and senior teammates helped me a lot to develop my ability. The Asian Games women’s 4x400m bronze and a mixed 4x400m gold from the previous SEA Games are my most cherished memories.”

Nguyễn Thị Hằng receives the baton from her teammate in the women’s 4x200m relay at the National Athletics Championship on December 12 in Hà Nội. Photo courtesy of Triệu VIệt Linh

The Asian Games bronze was her first international medal but the SEA Games title felt even more special as it was the first time the mixed relay was organised at the regional Games and Hằng and her teammates not only won but also set a record of 3min and 19.50sec.

Hằng was part of a dream team with Trần Đình Sơn, Trần Nhật Hoàng and Quách Thị Lan.

According to national team coach Nguyễn Thị Bắc, Hằng’s small size was not a big issue as she had the ability to compete and she had good reason to choose such a consistent and competitive ‘soldier’ in her relay team that was brimming with talent.

“Hằng has an explosive start,” said Bắc.

“Her tenacity, endurance and fierce fighting spirit are remarkable, so she did well in the first lap. Although running against three men, Hằng was not scare at all. Her excellent performance played key role in our victory.”

Some days later, Hằng was the last runner of the women’s 4x400m relay team who outpaced arch-rival Thailand to take a gold for the third time in a row.

“I know I don’t have good stature of a 400m runner but I have my consistency, confidence and endurance. I know no other way but to practise hard and compete even harder to overcome my disadvantage,” said Hằng who missed chance to vie for a berth at the Tokyo Olympics’ mixed relay event because of the COVID-19 pandemic which caused cancelations of all international flights for qualifications.

Nguyễn Thị Hằng (right) runs in the mixed 4x400m relay event at the National Athletics Championship on December 10 in Hà Nội. Photo courtesy of Triệu VIệt Linh

After her success at the national championship, Hằng has now set her sights on the SEA Games that Việt Nam will host in May.

“The tasks are really important for us as we have to defend our titles,” she said.

“COVID-19 has disturbed many of the team’s plans. But we keep training and are ready for the challenges.”

Talking about his athlete, Deputy Director of Hà Nội Sports Competition and Training Centre Lại Phúc Lộc said: “She may not be tall but her strong feet and ankles are really suitable for a sprinter. I also think her determination and steel will pluses in helping her to progress.

“I believe that she will do good job at the SEA Games and will vie for medals at the 2022 ASIAD as well.” VNS

Nguyễn Thị Hằng (second, left) and teammates celebrate their milestone win of mixed 4x400m relay event at the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines in 2019. — Photo sggp.org.vn
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