Sunday, 04/02/2024 09:54

Dragon year-born Đăng hopes to make big in 2024


Nguyễn Hải Đăng expects to win an Olympic slot at the Paris Games in July. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Hải Đăng

Thanh Hà

Nguyễn Hải Đăng is working hard every day, training for better speed, technique and physique. He has fully embraced the life of an athlete and starts a day with the rackets and shuttlecocks and wraps up it after his exercise at the gym or vice versa.

Đăng was born in the Year of Dragon in 2000 and will celebrate his 24th birthday in September.

The Vietnamese regard the dragon as a symbol representing imperial power and authority. Those born in the Year of the Dragon are said to be charismatic, intelligent, confident and powerful. They are naturally lucky and gifted. Đăng certainly fits the bill.

He wants to have success and bring victory under his control. He has set a target of reaching his highest achievement in his career this year, picking up enough points for his first Olympic berth and finishing in the top 50 by the end of this year.

National No 1

Đăng first touched the racket when he was six as a little boy who was curious about the sport which was played everywhere across the country.

Việt Nam No 1 player Nguyễn Hải Đăng competes at the FELET Vietnam International Series in November 2023 in Ninh Bình Province. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Hải Đăng

Three years later, he became a Hồ Chí Minh City player and won gold and set up his domination of the national youth championship until 2018 when he won his first international title at a junior event in Cyprus.

In Nicosia, unseeded Đăng secured six wins without a set loss to take gold, marking an unbelievable victory in the tournament's history.

"I was a bit anxious about my height (1.70m). Then I found out that my senior teammate (Nguyễn Tiến) Minh was the same size as me but still reached the world level. I switched my style of play to be based on endurance tactics, which was suitable for me," Đăng said.

"I am lucky to be in the same team with Minh who is a great partner in training and rival in competitions. He inspires me and pushes me up. I have learnt a lot from him and rapidly developed.

"I am strong in defence. In matches, I try to defend well and wait for suitable opportunities to attack."

Minh, the national legend and former world No 5, said at the same age as Đăng he did not play as well as him.

"Đăng is different because he is a left-handed player. He has good wrist flexibility and his relentless play style is great," Minh said.

"Đăng's endurance is good, but he still needs to improve his strength so that he can gradually narrow the gap with the world's top-ranking athletes."

Before stepping onto the world stage, Đăng caused a domestic shock in early 2023. A slot in the second round of the Thailand International Challenge 2023 pushed him to place as the world's No 163, which made him the new national No 1.

Nguyễn Hải Đăng takes part in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, in October 2023. — VNS Photo Hoàng Linh

March 14, 2023 was a special day for Vietnamese badminton as Đăng ended Minh's 21-year dominance in Việt Nam.  

Four months later, Đăng made his debut in the world championship, a milestone in his career, although he was defeated in the first round.

"It is difficult to describe my feelings. I played pretty well against world No 28 Christo Popov from France. I could not beat him after three sets, but I learnt lessons that helped me grow strongly," said Đăng.

HCM City Badminton Federation General Secretary Lê Thanh Hà said: "It is not everyone can register to take part in the world championship as it depends on athletes' world ranking. The world event lures the strongest players.

"Đăng lost, but he brought home more things than when he competed in the lower level tournaments in the challengers and international systems."

Olympic target 

"In 2023 I took part in 20 international tournaments where I sharpened my skills and collected points to lift my world ranking. I am still working hard every day for good performance in events this year. I hope that it will help me have enough points for the Paris Olympics," Đăng said.

Nguyễn Hải Đăng in action at the National Team Badminton Championship in May 2023 in Thái Bình Province. —VNS Photo Hoàng Linh

In total, 172 places will be awarded for the badminton competitions at the Olympic Games Paris, with 86 for women and 86 for men.

In the men’s and women’s singles events, two athletes will be awarded places to the country with two or more athletes ranked between 1 and 16 in the Paris Ranking Lists.

Otherwise, one quota place is allowed per country. Đăng is now world No 93 and he will have three months to secure as many points as possible before the Race to Paris Ranking Lists are published on April 30. The Badminton World Federation will reallocate all unused quota places on July 5.

“My motto is being devoted and trying tirelessly. I will actively practise and compete. In badminton, competition is fierce. To be successful, athletes must be diligent, hard-working, and strict with themselves in training and competition," Đăng said.

"I will try my best to be as good as my idol Minh. But the first steps will be a berth in the Paris Games and advancing to the world top 50 this year."

Coach Văn Tuấn Kiệt said Đăng was a talented player who would receive the best conditions in training and compete in as many events as possible to earn enough points to bag a spot at the 2024 Olympics. VNS

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