Ho Chi Minh CityIsolated for three months in the National Sports Training Center II, the number one female short-distance athlete in Vietnam is constantly homesick and craves the feeling of competition on the track.

Tu Chinh is known as the speed queen of Southeast Asia thanks to her achievement of winning two consecutive gold medals at the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games. Photo: Duc Dong.

Tu Chinh is known as the “speed queen” of Southeast Asia thanks to the achievement of winning two gold medals in a row at the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games. Photo: Duc Dong.

– Since the Speed ​​Cup in April, how has Tu Chinh practiced lately?

– I am currently living in the National Sports Training Center II. I’ve been here with a few other athletes for three or four months. We can’t go out because of Covid-19.

Previously, teachers still went to the Center to guide. But about the last two weeks, the epidemic situation is stressful, the Center is almost completely isolated from the outside, so the teachers can’t enter anymore. We ourselves are not allowed to go to the training ground, but only maintain our fitness in the gym or practice in our own room.

– What about living conditions?

– Fortunately, we are still guaranteed a normal diet. Because not only athletes, but also staff, janitors… all stay at the Center, to avoid contact with the outside. We still gather at the cafeteria but split shifts to avoid large gatherings. I had a shot of the vaccine, over a week ago.

Can’t go out so it’s very cramped. But you know what. The whole society suffers, not just anyone. Fortunately, there have been a number of sporting events in the past, like the Olympics, so we can relax a bit. When there are Vietnamese athletes competing, everyone focuses on watching and cheering. I specialize in short distance running, so I am very interested in these events at the Olympics. The way they compete and win gives me a lot of emotions, helping me to learn lessons for myself, especially the Jamaican female athletes in the 100m.

– So, do you think Tu Chinh will one day be able to play at the Olympics?

– Of course, that was my dream. But to be fair, the Olympic arena is too big. Even Kristina Knott, the champion who also holds the 30th SEA Games record in the 200m, also competed under her strength when she appeared in Tokyo recently. She only reached 23 seconds 80, placing 37th out of 41 athletes competing in the qualifying round.

As for the 100m, my best achievement is 11 seconds 40 at the 2018 National Gymnastics and Sports Festival. If I can participate and maintain my form, I may pass the qualifying round. But reaching the semi-finals is a different story, because the minimum time is 11 seconds 35. Like in Tokyo last time, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Mujinga Kambundi or Marie-Josse Ta Lou all finished in under 11 seconds.

However, that does not mean stopping striving. On the contrary, I have to practice more and more determined. When it comes time to get the Olympic standard, maybe you can promote your ability when you are in high form (laughs).

Tu Chinh (left) craves the feeling of being competitive on the running tracks.  Photo: Duc Dong.

Tu Chinh (left) craves the feeling of being competitive on the running tracks. Photo: Duc Dong.

– Putting aside those distant things, what is Tu Chinh’s immediate plan?

– Currently, the coaching board cannot give a specific plan because the tournaments are being canceled because of Covid-19, not even knowing when to play again. Around the Center, there are currently many infections recorded, so the first priority is to fight the epidemic. I just hope the current nightmare is over quickly so I can practice and return to play as usual. I miss the feeling of competing on the track very much.

– What is the first thing Tu Chinh does after the translation is over?

– I’m going to visit my father. He is 55 years old this year. Normally, I still work as a hired worker, but because of the epidemic, I have to stay at home. Fortunately, my sister can still work online, and I still receive a normal salary, not reduced because I still practice. It’s just sad that I can’t play so I don’t have an extra allowance to help my family.

Then I went to visit Ms. Huong (coach Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong). We haven’t seen each other for a long time. In the past, our houses were close together, so I often came to visit and help her sell pho. But the shop has been closed for a long time because of the pandemic. Two months ago, her area had an infection, so she had to be isolated. Now it’s the Center’s turn to close, so they continue to stay apart.

– What does coach Thanh Huong mean to Tu Chinh?

– She was an outstanding athlete of Ho Chi Minh City in the 1990s, won gold medals in 100m and 200m at the 1995 National Gymnastics and Sports Festival in Hanoi. After retiring, she switched to coaching.

In 2007, she discovered me during a trip to elementary schools to “recruit”. I was only 10 years old at that time, my mother passed away early, my family was difficult, so I didn’t know what the future would hold. It was she who changed my life. From childhood until now, she took care of me every bit, from food to sleep. Therefore, when I reached the top at SEA Games or Asian tournaments, she was the first person I thought of.

Quang Huy

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