Long jumper Nguyen Tien Trong sets up a new record of 7.98m at the National Athletics Championships in 2019 in HCM City. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Tiến Trọng

“It is two centimetres.

“Just only two centimetres.

“I will make two centimetres this jump.”

Nguyễn Tiến Trọng thinks about this tiny distance every day in training.

If the long jumper can add the small distance to his personal best, he will become the first Vietnamese athlete to jump 8m and prove he belongs on the world stage.

National record holder

Born in 1997 in Cẩm Giàng District, Hải Dương Province, Trọng was taller and bigger than any of his friends at school.

He was chosen to take part in the provincial track-and-field competitions where he caught the eyes of the Military team’s scouts. He became an athlete when he was 13.

“I am the only one in the family as well as the district pursuing sport. So I think it is a fate that I am ‘engaged’ with athletics,” Trọng told Việt Nam News.

“My height was an advantage when I participated in different school events. I was offered to join basketball and martial arts clubs but athletics is my true love.

“I was only six when I watched the Việt Nam 22nd SEA Games on TV. I had no idea what ‘glory’ meant at that time but was strongly impressed with the way the track-and-field winners were honoured. They received big claps and huge encouragement after winning. It obsessed me. It was the reason why I agreed to join the Military team when invited immediately,” he recalled.

“Coaches had to persuade my parents a lot to let me go, saying that I had potential if I was trained professionally. They seemed okay with some doubts but now they have become my biggest supporters,” he said.

After nearly nine years of training, Trọng has proved his talent.

The man, who was born in the Year of the Buffalo, dominated national underage tournaments and set a record of 7.71m in the long jump before conquering the senior championships since 2016.

He has collected titles from international competitions including open events in Thailand and HCM City in 2019.

Among medals, his most memorable one is the gold at the fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2017 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

“Athletes from 44 countries came for titles. As a freshman in international events, I thought I would have no chance for the top three because it was Asia and all the jumpers were strong.

“Competing with no pressure, my leaps after three attempts were better than everyone including title favourites Chan Ming Tai (Hong Kong) and Amila Wijayalath Pedige (Sri Lanka). After the last jump, I was named the winner. It was a great feeling that I still shake when I think about,” he said.

 

At the 2019 national championship, Trọng confirmed his reign of the national men’s long jump pit with a leap of 7.98m, a new Vietnamese record.

“He is on the cusp of the eight-metre club that not too many athletes can do in the world. His jump is history, challenging the next generation,” said Dương Đức Thủy, head of the Athletics Department of the National Sports Administration.

Thủy was happy with Trọng’s result but reminded him: “You still owe me 2cm. Do what you have to do”.

“It is a little pressure for me,” said Trọng who promised to jump 8m to Thủy during an event in 2018. “It is not an easy tiny gap but I feel I can do better. I consider it a target to reach.”

SEA Games in sight

Long jumper Nguyễn Tiến Trọng competes to defend his title at theNational Athletics Championships in 2020in Hà Nội. Photo toquoc.vn

Trọng was expected to complete his target at the 2020 championship in Hà Nội last November.

However, he could only defend his crown with a humble jump of 7.58m.

“I also believed that I could do it. But a leg injury occurred just 10 days ahead of the tournament that prevented me from jumping my best,” he said.

“I have to try harder this year,” said Trọng referring to local tournaments as well as the 31st SEA Games in winter in Hà Nội.

It will be the third Games of the young lieutenant who has recorded poor results in previous tournaments despite being seeded.

At the 2017 event, he finished fifth and two years later he also could not join the top three despite just setting a national record.

“I was inexperienced at the first Games while I was not at my peak in the second one after competing in an international tournament for soldiers,” he explained.

Trọng is one of the athletes tipped to win gold for Việt Nam at the coming Games on home turf as his current results are similar to the top three of the Manila event two years ago.

“My coaches and I are working hard to improve and sustain my ability at a high level. The eight-metre distance is the first step and then I have to do better so that I could set my sights on continental events,” he said.

“I do not set a specific target which will make me tired and nervous but I do not want the gold medal to leave Việt Nam this year,” he said.

“I am trying hard every day to be the second Vietnamese male long jump gold medalist in history.”

Việt Nam have won only one SEA Games gold medal in men’s long jump to date. The first went to Bùi Văn Đông who triumphed in 2017. VNS

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