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Nguyen Huu Viet – talented and talented fisherman

He once won asthma to win a historic three gold medals at the SEA Games, but in the middle of a sunny day in Hanoi, “Frog Prince” Nguyen Huu Viet couldn’t get past death’s door.

Talking about swimming in Vietnam in the period 2004-2009, the first person to mention is Huu Viet. Swimmer from Thuy Nguyen, Hai Phong not only took home the first swimming gold medal for Vietnam at the SEA Games since integration, but also set a record for the first Olympics.

Huu Viet after breaking the 2009 SEA Games record in Vientiane, Laos.  Screenshot

Huu Viet celebrates after breaking the 2009 SEA Games record in Vientiane, Laos. Photo Screenshot

December 13, 2009, in the swimming pool of the Laos National Sports Complex, regional media attention focused on the 100m breaststroke at the 25th SEA Games. Defending champion Nguyen Huu Viet faces competition from Indonesian fisherman Indra Gunawan. Gunawan set a record for the Asian Games in the qualifying round that morning, with a time of 1 minute 02.59 seconds, 0.82 seconds faster than Huu Viet. The chance to win a third consecutive SEA Games gold medal from a Vietnamese swimmer is threatened.

In the afternoon of the same day, the two entered the final round, respectively in lanes 4 and 5. After the first 50 m, Gunawan led by 0.14 seconds compared to Huu Viet. Gunawan can finish the competition with a new record at the SEA Games, if Huu Viet doesn’t perform better. The number one swimmer in Vietnam at that time ran fast and reached the finish line first with a difference of 0.32 seconds compared to Gunawan. After learning that he won first place and broke the SEA Games record, Huu Viet raised his hand to his mouth to signal silence, then raised his fist to celebrate.

He did not forget to encourage Gunawan, then left the tank. Representatives of the Vietnam Aquatic Association gave Huu Viet a hot gift of 20 million VND.

Fisherman Nguyen Huu Viet

Men’s 100m frog final at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.

“I’m very happy to win a gold medal and break the SEA Games record,” he said at the time. “This is the Vietnam swimming team’s first gold medal this year, and I hope my teammates can do better.”

Huu Viet’s wish did not come true, when they only brought home the Vietnam swimming gold medal in Vientiane. Of the three Huu Viet gold medals at the 2005, 2007 and 2009 SEA Games in the 100 meters frog event, no other Vietnamese swimmer has ever won it.

Huu Viet’s swimming talent has been seen since childhood, when he came to the green track at the age of 7 years old. Two years later, he won the U10 national gold medal in the 50m frog content. At the age of 14, he won the national championship, and was sent by Hai Phong to train in China. “It’s as if God gave birth to Huu Viet to swim the breaststroke,” said coach Chu Thi Bang – who discovered Huu Viet’s talent. “He immediately showed rhythmic coordination between movements, and the parameters of the 100m and 200m frogs continued to improve year after year.”

The content of the men’s breaststroke was the spearhead of Vietnam’s swimming in the early years of reintegration into the region. At the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, swimmer Quang Binh Tran Xuan Hien took home the first medal for Vietnamese swimming in Olympic history, when he finished second with a time of 1 minute 04.94 seconds.

However Xuan Hien lost his place at the 2003 SEA Games in Vietnam to the talented 15 year old Nguyen Huu Viet. This failure also caused Xuan Hien to retire at the age of 22. In 2013, fisherman Quang Binh suddenly died in a traffic accident, at the age of 31.

Vietnamese swimming lost Xuan Hien, to invest in Huu Viet, and this decision is not wrong. Although Huu Viet only won 1 minute 04.77 seconds and received a bronze medal at the 22nd SEA Games, he continues to be invested with a long-term training trip to China. Since then, Chinese experts Hoang Quoc Huy assigned a private tutoring assignment with Huu Viet.

Sports investments in Hai Phong and Vietnam paid off sweetly, as Huu Viet won a historic gold medal at the 2005 SEA Games in Manila, Philippines. She achieved a result of 1 minute 03.80 seconds in the 100m breaststroke, only 0.21 seconds faster than runner-up Vorrawuti Aumpiwan. It is noteworthy that in the qualifying round, Huu Viet was only eighth, the last place got a place in the final, and he also had to swim in lane 8 in the final.

Winning the first SEA Games gold medal for such an important sport as swimming, Huu Viet was selected as the unique athlete of Vietnam in 2005. He got 1,153 points, 41 points more than the player Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son – the winner. Vietnam at the SEA Games. Swimmer Hai Phong also finished second in this election in 2009, after Vu Thi Huong. In addition to that year’s SEA Games record, Huu Viet also won a silver medal and a bronze medal at the Asian Indoor Games in Hanoi.

Nguyen Huu Viet received the 100m breaststroke gold medal at the 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos.  Photo: FBNV

Nguyen Huu Viet received the 100m breaststroke gold medal at the 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos. Photo: FBNV

The career of a top athlete is often faced with many difficulties, with long training journeys and international competitions. With Huu Viet, the difficulty is doubled due to chronic asthma. This disease can recur at any time, and is very dangerous if not treated on time.

After three consecutive gold medals at the SEA Games, Huu Viet was empty-handed at the 2011 Olympics. But swimming in Vietnam still has a worthy successor to him, as the young talent Hoang Quy Phuoc won two gold medals. That is one reason Huu Viet retired at the age of 23 quietly, another reason is asthma.

“My son left the green track and is proud of his dedication to the team after years of training and competing,” said Huu Viet’s mother – Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thao Nhung – then. “Huu Viet has been mentally preparing for this turning point for a long time, to completely cure asthma, and at the same time focus on the next plan.”

After retiring, Huu Viet studied at Ho Chi Minh City Sports and Sports University, then became a coach at Hai Phong. For his contribution to Vietnamese sports, he was awarded a 200m2 plot of land by Hai Phong. Huu Viet’s career on the green line ended completely.

However, he could not completely treat his asthma. On the evening of March 24, Huu Viet still performed at My Dinh Stadium to encourage Vietnam to compete with Oman in the third qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup – Asia region. The next morning, while taking a shower, the disease recurred, causing him to stop breathing, and die forever.

Huu Viet’s hopes come true every day, as the younger generation of swimmers, especially Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, take Vietnamese swimming to the top of the region. But when it comes to the first Vietnamese swimming legend, Huu Viet will forever stand in the most serious position.

Xuan Binh

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