Small in age, big in will
Phuc was born into a farming family that, unusually, has had four of its seven children become track and field athletes. A deep passion for these disciplined sports formed early in the “thin dark” girl, and Phuc soon showed her talent in athletics when she finished third in the marathon at the Da Nang Phu Dong Sports Festival in 2004, just behind two players from the "gifted" sports class. Her aptitude caught the eye of many coaches including Tran Anh Hiep, the teacher who first discovered her special ability and guided her to pursue race walking.
“The hard life in her hometown has helped building up Thanh Phuc’s excellent physical health and a strong will that has enabled her to overcome every obstacle”, Hiep said.
Throughout her ten years of practising, Phuc achieved a lot of success at local tournaments. However, it was not until the 26th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia last November that the name Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc became widely known both at home and abroad when she struck gold in the women’s 20km race walk with a time of 1 hour, 43 minutes, and 22 seconds.
“This sport requires great stamina and hard work because of its unique characteristics”, Phuc says, “Difficult as it is, I have always dreamed about someday competing in the Olympics”.
The dream comes true
On March 11, defending SEA Games champion Thanh Phuc once again recorded her name in the annuals of national athletics as the first track and field athlete to make it through to the 2012 London Olympics after snatching a bronze at the Asian Race Walking Championship in Nomi, Japan, which she did not expect to do before the event.
The 21 year old produced a miracle in the 20km race walk, clocking a time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, three minutes faster than the "B" standard qualification for the Olympics, to secure an official berth for Vietnam at the world’s biggest sporting event.
The precious ticket to the Olympic track and field events the Vietnamese sports delegation was longing for was finally achieved by a young woman from Da Nang.
With one SEA Games gold medal, one Asian bronze and the 2012 Olympic ticket, Phuc has officially stepped out of the shadow of her famous teammates Truong Thanh Hang and Vu Thi Huong to become known as a small but strong-willed national powerhouse.
Thanh Phuc’s brilliant achievements give the country hope that the new-found track and field talent will continue to shine brightly and bring glory to the homeland at the upcoming 2012 London Summer Olympic Games.