Thursday , June 13 2024

SEA Games champion Phúc to popularise race walking nationwide

Race walking

People train every morning at Hà Nội’s Hoàn Kiếm Lake. — Photo of Hồ Gươm Walk Racing Team

Thanh Hà

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Phúc has walked and walked and walked for nearly two decades and her passion for race walking has never stopped.

The national No. 1 race walker has found herself on top of the podium for a long time and has dreamed of spreading her love to the wider community.

Phúc and her younger brother Nguyễn Thành Ngưng, also a national team member, decided to push the walking movement nationwide, starting from the capital city, with the hopes of seeing it develop as a hot trend.

“I have walked for almost 20 years and 17 years at the top. A chance to see 100 athletes at the start line at a tournament seemed impossible as in my career no more than 10 including me competed a the national championship,” said Phúc.

“I first thought about a tournament for Vietnamese people when I took part in an Asian championship in 2012 in Japan where I saw many people including students taking part in a local event.

“I wished to have such an event in Việt Nam and it has been 11 years in the making and I knew that I must be the vanguard. After the 32nd Cambodian SEA Games when Việt Nam won one gold and one silver, I believed that it was the right time to spread the sport to the wider community.

Hoàng Vũ Huyền Trang (centre) trains with the Hà Nội’s VKL running club in early December. — Photo courtesy of Triệu Việt Linh

“As far as I know, walk racing is not only an elite athletic sport but also suitable for people of all ages to improve their health. Other benefits include stress reduction, burning excess fat and a better cardiovascular system.

“I would not be as successful without people’s support and encouragement. It is now time to pay back and make my long-time dream come true.”

She raised the credibility of the sport through her participation at marathons nationwide and tried to talk with as many people as she could to listen to their opinions and responses.

“I asked my brother Ngưng to join my campaign. I also connected with my friends, sports groups and everyone who might help me. I have taken part in running for more than five months to have new experiences and lure people’s attention. I want to see a booming movement of walking,” the London Olympian told the Việt Nam News.

She was surprised that her idea received strong feedback from sports lovers especially those in large cities such as Hà Nội, HCM City and Đà Nẵng.

Hoàng Vũ Huyền Trang who is one of the leading amateur race walking athletes in Hà Nội, said: “I knew Phúc and Ngưng from SEA Games and was interested in race walking. I tried to contact them to learn more about it and received strong help.”

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Phúc (front) leads a training course in HCM City in mid-December. — Photo of Hồ Gươm Walk Racing Team

“This sport was not known at that time but I kept training. People saw me and many joined in my sessions every day at Hoàn Kiếm Lake. Now, the number of us is remarkably high,” said Trang who has a nine-year-old daughter and helps tutor people every day at 6am in the lake area.

Nguyễn Anh Vũ, a regular walker, said: “I have walked my way before I knew about Phúc and her race-walking group. I am trained and guided on how to walk well with the right technique. I have done it much better and found that walking brings me better spirit and health and I can even work more effectively.”

In their first steps to carry out the plan, Phúc and Ngưng flew to Hà Nội in early December to organise the first training courses in which hundreds of people joined them as the core of the national walk race movement.

The SEA Games champion said that people also need basic understanding and technique to begin walking.

Phúc said: “I believe that the sport will strongly develop. Currently, many people message me to ask for support. They include a 70-year-old man who needs a basic technique guide and young people send me their training clips and I will help correct them. I am happy for such great interest and response.”

Phúc also received strong support from the Việt Nam Athletics Federation which agreed to organise the first major race walking event on January 1, 2024.

Hồ Gươm Walk Racing Team members train on December 23 to celebrate Christmas. They will take part in the first major event of walk racing on January 1, 2024, in Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Triệu Việt Linh

The event is part of the Việt Nam International Half Marathon 2024 and is considered a new play ground for people, popularising an athletic event to a wider community.

As many as 200 athletes have been invited to take part in the event to be held around the Thiền Quang Lake. The top 10 finishers will receive special bonuses from the organisers.

Along with the walking race, organisers will also have experts and staff to guide people on how to walk properly and launch a walk race development programme by encouraging people to take part in a one-lap walk, about 1.7km around the lake.

“I can’t believe that 200 slots for the walking race gone quickly,” Phúc said.

“Thanks to the federation, my friends and many others for helping me push the sport and thanks to the people joining me in this task.

“I promised to bring everyone new experience in walking.” — VNS

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