Without a commensurate successor, Nguyen Tien Minh, 38, still represents Vietnam’s badminton for the 2021 Olympics as the oldest player.
Tien Minh is the oldest player to compete in badminton in Tokyo 2021, two years older than the second, Niluka Karunaratne. While legends like Lee Chong Wei or Lin Dan have retired at the age of 37, Tien Minh is still fighting. Ho Chi Minh City tennis player still remains in the top 100 in the world, and still leaves the possibility of attending Asiad 2022 in China.
“I am very honored to represent Vietnam’s badminton for the fourth time to attend an Olympics,” he shared with VnExpress. “With the experience accumulated in the previous Olympics, I will try to aim for the highest. Recently, due to the epidemic, the training conditions were very difficult, but I always tried to improve my fitness. I feel very energetic and hope to have the most successful Olympics in my career, leaving a lot of impressions with the fans.”
In addition to becoming the first Vietnamese athlete to attend the Olympics four times in a row, since Beijing 2008, Tien Minh also equaled the achievement of four times at the Games of badminton monuments Lee and Lin. Only he never made it past the first round.
In 2008, Tien Minh lost to Taiwan’s number one tennis player Hsieh Yu-hsing (Ta Du Hung) with a score of 1-2 in the third round, and soon left Beijing. Four years later in London, Tien Minh attended the tournament as the seed of the group. He won against Belgian player Yuhan Tan, but lost to Indian opponent Yuhan Tan in two blank games. That was the biggest opportunity for Tien Minh to go deep in the Olympics, but he couldn’t take advantage of it.
At Rio 2016, Tien Minh won two group matches, but lost to Lin Dan who was superior in terms of level. Once again, the number one player in Vietnam had to stop right after the first round.
At the Tokyo Olympics, and Tien Minh were in the same group with L with Azerbaijani-Indonesian tennis player Ade Resky Dwicahyo, and world number three Anders Antonsen. The last time Tien Minh met a top 10 player was in the 2019 Asian semi-finals against world number one Kento Momota. Tien Minh only lost 18-21 in the first game, before losing quickly 8-21 in the second game.
Tien Minh won the bronze medal at the Asian tournament that year, the second highest achievement in his second career after the world bronze medal in 2013. The career of Ho Chi Minh City tennis player is associated with three more bronze medals at the 2007 SEA Games, 2013 and 2017 .
The goal of winning an Olympic bronze medal with Tien Minh is much more difficult. First of all, you need to be at the top of the group to enter the 1/8 round, so you have to win Dwicahyo and Antonsen. Tien Minh met Antonsen in the second round of the 2018 world tournament, and lost 16-21, 18-21. But, Antonsen has improved a lot since then, rising from 16th place to world number three. And Tien Minh attended two international tournaments in 2020 including the Australian Open and the Thailand Masters, both eliminated in the first match.
In the world’s top 100, there are no players of Tien Minh’s age. But, there were no other Vietnamese players there either. Pham Cao Cuong, Le Duc Phat or Nguyen Hai Dang are all far from the top 100, although they are not too young. Without a suitable successor team, Tien Minh still has to continue to represent Vietnam in international competitions.
“With my age now, it’s not important to meet any opponent,” he said optimistically. “The main thing is how to have good health, play to the best of your ability and take advantage of the experience in the previous Olympics. Only then can you hope to have a ticket to continue.”
Xuan Binh – Duc Dong
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