Olympics qualified boxer distressed as Covid-19 robs preparation opportunities

Nguyen Van Duong, the first Vietnamese featherweight boxer ever to qualify for the Olympics, is worried about how Covid-19 has disrupted his training routines and livelihood.

Vietnam, boxer, Nguyen Van Duong, Vietnamese athlete, Tokyo Olympics, Covid-19

Nicknamed Little Chicken, Duong made history when beating Thailand's Chatchai Decha Butdee in the 57kg category Tokyo Olympic qualifiers in Jordan last March and becoming the first Vietnamese boxer to qualify for the sporting event in 33 years.

But the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak has taken a huge emotional and psychological toll on the 25-year-old boxer. He admitted that he is struggling to make ends meet after local and international tournaments have been postponed. Not to mention, his fighting spirit has somewhat dampened since the pandemic has derailed his training program.

"After that victory, I was extremely excited and had been looking forward to competing in the Olympics. I was very disappointed after the event was postponed. Everyone thinks that boxers must wear nerves of steel. But at that stage, my mental health degraded significantly," he said.

Even though the Tokyo Olympics is still scheduled to take place this year, Dung shared that competing internationally seems far from coming true due to the outbreak, adding his current goal is winning the National Club Championship in April and National Championship in September.

"But with the current Covid-19 situation, it is not known whether or not the tournaments can take place as planned. For boxers like us, just practicing but not getting on the ring is very stressful."

Vietnam, boxer, Nguyen Van Duong, Vietnamese athlete, Tokyo Olympics, Covid-19

Nguyen Van Duong at the VSP Boxing Gym in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1, Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Van Duong.

After spending his Tet break back at his hometown in northern Bac Giang Province, he and 10 other boxers from HCMC resumed training on Feb. 21. But fighters who have only been doing regular training have not set foot on the boxing ring since then.

Dung shared that he and others wake up every day at 5:30 a.m. and begin his day with a 10-12 km run, followed by some 100-200 meters dash training. They then punch sandbags for six to eight sets with each lasting for three minutes. Their morning usually ends at 8 a.m. with air-punching, push-ups and abs exercises. After the afternoon break, the team begins their technical and tactical training from 3 to 6 p.m. and repeats everything the following day.

"Normally, we can drink and hang out at coffee shops after practice to relieve stress. But because of Covid-19 outbreak, we spent several months in the center so we feel a bit depressed after being cooped up for too long. Just practicing and not competing made us feel even worse. Boxers like me really need to be able to go back out to the ring to fight real battles."

Dung shared that the resumption of local tournaments will not only help him improve fighting skills but also help relieve mental stress and generate income.

Since the Olympic qualifiers are not part of the bonus system of the General Department of Sport, he didn't receive any cash prize but was able to pocket a total of VND21 million (over $900) for finishing first place in both the National Championship and National Cup Championship last year.

"I am fortunate to still be receiving the team's base salary. But honestly, it's just enough to cover our meals. Boxers like us have to compete and achieve medals to earn income."

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