SEA CHANGE - HOANG XUAN VINH

Olympics: SEA Change - A new chapter begins for Viet sports

New Olympic 10m air pistol champion Hoang Xuan Vinh, who edged out Brazil's Felipe Wu, is congratulated by eighth-placed Indian Jitu Rai.
New Olympic 10m air pistol champion Hoang Xuan Vinh, who edged out Brazil's Felipe Wu, is congratulated by eighth-placed Indian Jitu Rai. PHOTO: REUTERS

From no golds at London 2012 to two golds on the opening day at Rio 2016, South-east Asia's athletes have started bright and early in their hunt for Olympic glory. Vietnamese shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh and Thai lifter Sopita Tanasan could spur the region's best to greater feats

RIO DE JANEIRO • Hoang Xuan Vinh may have just ended Vietnam's six-decade wait for a first Olympic gold on Saturday, but he was not about to make a song and dance about his historic feat.

The 41-year-old military officer finally fell into the arms of his coaches after his near-perfect final shot in the men's 10m air pistol competition, out-duelling Brazil's Felipe Almeida Wu, who had taken the lead after the penultimate round.

The Vietnamese claimed the title with 202.5 points in the final, while Wu was just 0.4 point adrift. China's Pang Wei was third.

If Vinh was feeling as proud as punch at finally ending a quest for Vietnam that first began in Helsinki in 1952, he was not about to show it, insisting that he was "very lucky".

"The Brazilian shooter was very fast and stronger, but I think only 'try, try, try'," he said.

NEVER GIVING UP

The Brazilian shooter was very fast and stronger, but I think only 'try, try, try'.

On the last shot I don't think gold or silver. I think only try.

HOANG XUAN VINH, who insisted that he was "very lucky".

"On the last shot I don't think gold or silver. I think only try."

He may be modest about his win, but his country was rejoicing yesterday over the maiden gold medal, a success made sweeter by the fact that regional rival China was beaten along the way.

Vietnamese state media reported that Vinh would receive US$100,000 (S$135,000) from the state on his return - a handsome sum in a country where the average annual income is around US$2,100.

"So proud! But the greatest happiness was that we won over China," Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen, a Vietnamese music show host based in the US but popular in her homeland, wrote on Facebook.

 
 

"Vietnamese sport has begun a new chapter," added Facebook user Nguyen Dat. "Defeating the Chinese athlete, hosts Brazil and the current South Korean champion. So convincing!"

"You are the pride of the nation and the people," added reader Truong Tran Hoang Du, on the Tuoi Tre newspaper's website.

 

Vietnam's state media said Vinh learnt how to shoot in the communist country's military which he joined in 1991, initially practising on AK-47 rifles.

"This victory came from the courageous spirit and the utmost determination of the athlete, his coaches and from key investment ahead of the 2016 Olympics," Minister of Sports Nguyen Ngoc Thien said.

Vinh ended last year as world No. 3 in the 50m pistol and is currently ranked sixth in the 10m air pistol. He and team-mate Tran Quoc Cuong are competing in both events in Brazil.

He held the 10m air pistol final world record in 2014 before it was eclipsed by South Korea's triple Olympic champion Jin Jong Oh. He has also bagged multiple ISSF World Cup medals, including golds at stops in Changwon, South Korea and Fort Benning, United States in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Vinh's success is sweet redemption for his disappointment in the 2012 London Olympics, where he made his Games debut.

There, he fell agonisingly short of a medal when he shot a woeful 7.3 for his penultimate attempt in the 50m pistol event.

He finished fourth with a 658.5 score, 0.1 of a point behind bronze medallist Wang Zhiwei of China and spent his post-competition interviews apologising.

Now, his name will be etched in Vietnam's sporting history, a dramatic golden effort after two previous silver medals - one in weightlifting and one in taekwondo.

"It will be my lifetime memory," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline ' A new chapter begins for Viet sports'. Print Edition | Subscribe