HÀ NỘI — Nguyễn Thùy Linh believes that choosing to follow her sporting dreams was the best decision of her life, but it’s not been an easy path to take.
She may well be the nation’s number one female badminton player, but to reach that level needed hard work, focus, and extreme dedication.
Linh recently featured in the Toyko Olympics, and at just 23 years old, she knows it won’t be her last. Next, she is setting her sights on success at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, hoping to collect a gold medal on home soil.
Winning the country’s only ever badminton gold at the SEA Games will not only be a remarkable achievement but also fulfill a promise she made to her late grandfather, a man who always encouraged her to follow her dreams.
"To compete at the Olympics is the dream of every athlete,” Linh told the Việt Nam News . “The only word I can use to explain how I felt was 'happy' when I received my own 'ticket' to Tokyo."
Linh was drawn in a difficult group at the games, with all three opponents ranked higher than her, including world number one Tai Tzu Ying.
"I spent nearly two years training locally because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But thinking about Tokyo made me very proud and excited. I worked hard and luckily, I maintained my performance in Tokyo," said Linh, who is the third female Vietnamese player in an Olympics.
"After the draw, people said it was a pity that I was in the same group with Tai. But in fact, seeds were divided equally into groups, so whatever group I was in I would face strong opposition," said Linh.
"I also kept a positive spirit, asking myself to do the best and never give up, no matter if I won or lost."
The world No 48 has not been seen that often at elite-level tournaments, but she did enough in her Olympic debut to suggest that she aspire for higher things. She dismissed Qi Xuefei of France and Jaquet Sabrina of Switzerland in straight games while giving Tai much to think about in their match.
She added: "So far, the match against Tai was my favourite as I played against my idol. Olympics and idol at the same time, it was double happiness for me, especially I heard that she might retire next year, so it would be my only chance to play her."
Linh said Tai was one of her inspirations to take up badminton.
"I did not worry but was excited,” she said. “I wanted to have a competitive match and show my abilities against Tai. Of course, she did not know my special feeling. She is an amazing athlete but had to play hard to take points from me.
"After the Olympics, my confidence and competitiveness got better. I think I can do well in other tournaments."
Future tournaments will be the world championship in Spain in December and the 31st SEA Games, both are huge challenges.
"The world championship, like Olympics, attracting all the best athletes from everywhere. I will have to work hard to go to Spain with in form and play as well as I can," said Linh.
"Badminton has developed strongly in Asia, and Southeast Asia in particular. It is home to some of the world’s high-ranking players, making the SEA Games a really tough tournament, and winning a medal will not be easy," said Linh who was eliminated from the first round at the 2019 event in the Philippines.
After Tokyo, she has begun a new campaign with a higher volume of exercises and difficulty levels to improve her physique, speed, improvisation, and endurance throughout matches.
She will also have an intensive training course back in Tokyo to sharpen her skills in the coming weeks when the COVID-19 pandemic is better controlled.
"To be No 1 of Việt Nam is not my final target. Like many others, I always look toward higher results in my career. I hope to have my name on the world map of badminton. And also, I want to be the first player to win gold medal for Việt Nam at the SEA Games."
A place in the world top 30 and a position in the coming Games' top three are top priorities. And further, she wants to have a chance at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
She added: "Chances are ahead and I will definitely have to face many strong rivals like Tai on my way to success. I will have to try harder and harder to go as far as possible." — VNS
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