Thursday, 04/05/2023 08:21

Golden dreams for cyclist Cường


Quàng Văn Cường celebrates when crosses the finish line of the 31st SEA Games men's criterium last May. He will travel to Cambodia next month to defend his title. VNA/VNS Photo 

The finish line was a few hundred metres away, and Quàng Văn Cường sped past his rivals for what looked like top place at the HTV Cup, a major cycling tournament in Việt Nam. But in an instant, he collided with another cyclist and fell to the ground -- his dream of victory in tatters.

The accident did not injure him but left him out of the race for the title. Cường was distraught, but he did not give up. The athlete knows this is the life of a cyclist: speed, endurance and accidents.

Now he has to defend his gold medal at the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia in May.

Cường was born in 1997 and grew up in Pát Village in north-west Sơn La Province.

He was the youngest child of three in a farming family which earned a living by growing rice and plums. Working hard all year round, they rarely earned enough for a delicious meal.

Cường only escaped poverty when he joined the provincial cycling team.

Quàng Văn Cường falls after an accident during the 2023 HTV Cup cycling tournament in early April. — Photo

 "I don't know why I was chosen because I just loved football and knew nothing about cycling at all," Cường said.

"It was when I was at secondary school and coaches came to hunt potential athletes. I practised in Sơn La for a short time before joining the cycling team in Hà Nội in 2012 and trained to be a pro-cyclist." 

It was not easy to start a new life in a strange environment without his family. The 15-year-old struggled to overcome difficulties and adapt to the new living conditions and relentless practice.

"I was getting sick of Hà Nội. Once, I was hospitalised for a week and my coaches and teammates had to take care of me. I was sad and homesick," he said.

But after a short time following a strict nutrition regime and suitable training, Cường began to show his potential.

Coach Nguyễn Minh Thành said he appreciated him as a multi-purposed racer who was strong in mountain climbing, sprinting and the individual time trial.

"I dreamed of the day I was on the top podium in the SEA Games. This would be the biggest present to my coaches and family," Cường said.

Cường is currently on a loan contract with Lộc Trời Group, a big name in national cycling, but will return to wear Hà Nội's jersey in the National Championship and National Sports Games.

Much lauded, under his belt he has a gold medal from the national championship in 2017, a yellow jersey for winning the "Returning to Countryside" tournament, and a green jersey as best sprinter at the Bình Dương Television BTV Cup in 2019.

SEA Games challenger

The gold at the national tournament in 2017 gave Cường a berth in the national team to compete in the 29th SEA Games the same year. But dengue fever prevented him from taking part.

Two years later, he finally arrived in the Philippines for competition but failed to enter the top three.

He made his medal dream come true at the 31st Games on home ground last May.

Cường finished first in the men's criterium with a time of 56.13sec, leaving strong rivals Sarawut Sirironnachai of Thailand and Boon Kiak Yeo of Singapore half-a-bike behind.

It was the first-ever gold for Việt Nam in this category.

Quàng Văn Cường (centre) sprints to the finish line at the 31st SEA Games. — VNA/VNS Photo

 "We highly appreciated Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, but believed in our cyclists. Although my players had no international competition before the Games the whole team strictly followed our tactics and did a good job to help Cường win his first title," coach Nguyễn Huy Hùng said.

Cường said he was surprised at winning gold.

"It was an unexpected result for myself as well as the coaching board,” he said. "The gold did not change my life much, but I am proud when many people recognised me and encouraged me when I was in the race. It is the best achievement in my career. I love it."

Months after the 31st Games, Cường grabbed a silver in the National Sports Games and kept his place in the national team for the 32nd Games in Cambodia.

He expected a high result at the annual HTV Cycling Tournament in April, but the accident at the eighth stage slowed him down, and he couldn't reach his target.

The race was part of his preparation to defend his gold in Phnom Penh. He said that in the last days before the Games, he and his coaching team will discuss a plan to top the podium.


Quàng Văn Cường (centre) and two teammates celebrate Việt Nam's first win in men's criterium at the 31st SEA Games. — VNA/VNS Photo

"Although I won gold, the SEA Games has never been an easy tournament. We always need good preparation for it. The HTV tournament is a necessary experience for me to warm up ahead of the Games," said Cường.

" The SEA Games is a big challenge and I will do my best to have the highest result."

The road cycling events will be held May 11-13 in Siem Reap Province's Angkor Wat temple complex. VNS


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