Record breaking athlete catches critics flat-footed

Ngan Ngoc Nghia, a pro runner, has overcome physical disadvantage to break the national record not once but twice.

runner, athletics, athlete, sports, Vietnam, national record, Vietnamese runner, Ngan Ngoc Nghia

Nghia garnered the most attention at 2020 National Athletics Championship in November for breaking the men’s national 100 m record, besting the previous record he himself set at the 2018 Vietnam National Games.

This year, he finished the race in 10.40 seconds, 0.07 seconds less than his prior record. Besides, he helped the 4x100 m men’s relay tea clinch gold.

Over the past two years, Nghia has been considered the new hope of Vietnamese short distance athletics due to his stellar performances.

But his path to glory proved no walk in the park, commencing with a certain disadvantage.

His coach Nguyen Van Hoang still remembers the time he picked Nghia while scouting potential athletes in Son La Province.

"I noticed his feet were too flat. But I picked Nghia because he possesses other qualities," Hoang said.

"Normally, having bent feet increases elasticity when making contact with the ground. But with Nghia, the force of each step is more absorbed. At a higher level of intensity, this force will also spread to the side and would not be forward focused," the coach added.

runner, athletics, athlete, sports, Vietnam, national record, Vietnamese runner, Ngan Ngoc Nghia

Ngan Ngoc Nghia's flat feet. Photo by VnExpress/Kim Hoa.

Born into a highlands Thai ethnic community, Nghia spent much of his childhood climbing mountains. He believes continued stress on the feet is a possible reason behind his undeveloped arches.

"When I started professional athletics training, my flat feet caused me a lot of problems, especially during muscle training and cardio sessions. My soles really hurt when I ran," he recalled.

Coach Hoang, convinced of 21-year-old Nghia’s potential, developed a special daily training routine to help his student beat his disadvantage.

In 2018, Nghia won the national championship with a hamstring injury. Throughout the prior two months, he could barely run, with Hoang simply motivating him to slowly improve on his personal results. To everyone’s amazement, the young star went on to win gold and break the national record.

runner, athletics, athlete, sports, Vietnam, national record, Vietnamese runner, Ngan Ngoc Nghia

Ngan Ngoc Nghia (C) finishes first in the men’s 100 m category at the 2020 National Athletics Championship in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Kim Hoa.

Ahead of the 2020 National Athletics Championship, which was held between November 5-15 in Hanoi, Nghia had trained alone since there were no other athletes competing in his age group at this level.

"In comparison, I like my achievement in 2020 more than that of 2018. Two years ago, I was still in pain when I broke the record but this time my body was ready," Nghia said.

The rise of the athlete has sparked gold medal hopes for Vietnam at SEA Games 31 next year, with other countries in the region, especially Thailand, strong contenders in the 100 m category.

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