A gentle hard-working 'Tiger'

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Southeast Asian medium distance champion Truong Thanh Hang and other Vietnamese athletes left Tuesday for the 2011 Asian Athletics Championships in Kobe, Japan which will last from July 7-10.

All hopes for a medal are pinned on Thanh Hang, a hard-working girl who was born in the Year of the Tiger.

Despite Hang's "tiger" stars, she is very gentle, very quiet and very considerate. She is very hard-working by nature and the medium distance has made her very patient, her coach Ho Thi Tu Tam said.

Bread winner

Hang, who finished second in the women's 800m and 1,500m races at the Asian Games in China in 2010, is 25 years old now and is the second daughter in the family.

Her oldest sister is married with three children and Hang's salary currently serves as the main source of income for the family. Her father works as a security guard at the Medical Center of Ho Chi Minh City's District 2 and her mother is a small vendor.

Her parents' incomes are low and her younger brother just finished his military responsibility and is unemployed now. Her youngest brother is in her last year in high school this year.

Hang's monthly salary in Ninh Binh is more than US$500 and she uses it to support her parents and brothers. Her coach, Tu Tam, said Hang leads a simple life. She thinks about others more than herself. She has never spent money on an expensive item for herself.

"My salary from the national team is enough for me," Hang said. "My salary at the provincial club in Ninh Binh is divided into different pieces, some of which are for my family and some are for my future education."

Hang is now in her second year at Da Nang Physical Exercise and Sports University. She majors in track and field and all of her teachers understand that Hang must focus on training and competing for the country.

As a result, Hang is allowed to take exams whenever she has time.

When asked whether her parents have ever urged her to get married - Hang began a story in a soft voice.

 "When I was a fifth grader, I came in second in a district-level competition and was chosen to compete in the city contest," she said. "My parents didn't want me to be an athlete because I am a girl but when I was selected to join the city's team, my parents were so proud of me and agreed to let me go.

"Now they know I am very busy and my duty to the nation is our first priority, so they don't urge me to get married."

She said she liked cooking and listening to music in her free time.

National responsibility

German coach Uwe Freimuth, who works as a trainer for Vietnam's national athletic team, caught up with Hang for a brief pep talk before she left for Japan.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, he said Hang is good by nature and her technical skills are pretty good but she is psychologically uncertain, sometimes. In the coming Asian contest, she just needs to adjust her approach to competition.

He said Hang is likely to win the gold in the women's 800-meter category and the silver medal in the women's 1,500-meter race in Japan. And she should also need to meet the B standard to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

The 2010 Asian Games Bahraini champion of Ethiopian origin won't participate in the women's 1,500- meter race in Kobe, so it looks a bit easier for Hang.

There will be big rivals in the women's 800-meter race. Margarita Matsko from Kazakhstan was the 2010 Asian Games champion and her personal best is 2 minutes 0.29 seconds. An even better rival is 22-year-old Indian Tintu Luka whose personal best is 1 minute 59.17 seconds.

 "I'll try to win a medal," Hang said. "I finished the 800 meters at the 2010 Asian Games in 2 minutes 1.93 seconds."

If Hang can do it again, at least, she will qualify for the Olympics in London next year.

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