SEA Games: Iron girl hungry for gold

SEA Games: Iron girl hungry for gold
Nguyen Thi Anh Vien of Vietnam swims to win in the 800m freestyle swimming event during the final at the 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Singapore on June 6,2015.

Those wondering if Vietnam's "Iron Girl" Nguyen Thi Anh Vien will suffer a burnout at this South-east Asia (SEA) Games may have got a hint last night.

The 18-year-old, who was registered for all 19 women's swimming events, got off to a fantastic start on the first day of action at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, setting three Games records en route to two golds.

Her first record came in the morning heats of the 400m individual medley, when she clocked 4min 43.93sec.

In the final of the same event almost 12 hours later, she lowered that by more than a second, to 4:42.88.

She left Thailand's Phiangkhwan Pawapotako trailing in her wake, 16.5sec behind.

An hour earlier, Nguyen had swum a gruelling 800m freestyle final, which she won in a Games record time of 8:34.85, finishing 18 seconds ahead of second-placed Ammiga Himathongkom of Thailand.

Nguyen later ended speculation over whether she would do the unthinkable, when she told the media that she would be competing in only 11 events, although she did not specify which ones.

She gamely tried to answer in English, but her lack of command meant she did not reveal too much.

How do you feel? "Very happy, very proud."


Did you expect to win two golds? "I knew I could do it."

Do you think you can win all 11 events? "I hope so."

Do you feel good enough to do it? "Yeah."

Have you reached your best? "I think I can do better."

Vietnam's swimming head coach Dang Anh Tuan, shed a little more light as to why their star goes full tilt, whether in the heats or final.

"An Vien swims like in training," he said. "During training, I tell her to swim like competition."

"Of course, when you swim events like Anh Vien has, you will feel very tired," he conceded.

"But it's about how she recovers and adapts, that depends on the coaches and we will do the best for her."

Nguyen trains "sometimes six days, sometimes seven" a week, according to Dang, who declined to say how many hours she clocks in the pool.

Whatever her approach, it has paid off. In Myanmar two years ago, Nguyen clinched gold in the 200m backstroke, 200m individual medley and the 400m individual medley.

She holds 14 of the 17 national long-course swim records in Vietnam and was her country's Athlete of the Year for the last two years.

The youngest athlete in Vietnam's 2012 Olympic contingent, she is set to compete in up to four events in Rio next year, with a possible medal in sight.

First, though, she is eyeing a record 11 gold medals at these Games, and today she goes for three - the 50m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 200m backstroke.

This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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