Teenager Hoang Quy Phuoc has become the first Vietnamese swimmer to earn a berth at the 2012 London Olympics after an impressive showing at the Malaysia Open last week.
The May 12-15 championship held in Kuala Lumpur was a significant event for Vietnamese and other Asian swimmers because it provided the opportunity for them to book places at two major international events the 14th World Swimming Championships in Shanghai this July, and the London Olympics next year.
For the Vietnamese squad, hopes were pinned on veteran swimmers like Nguyen Huu Viet and Vo Thai Nguyen, but it was 17-year-old Phuoc of Da Nang who won the day.
On the first day of the contest, Nguyen Huu Viet was swept aside because of health problems, but on the final day, Phuoc took gold in the men's 100m butterfly, clocking 53.56 seconds, far above the B standard for the London Olympics of 54.19 seconds and the B standard of 54.16 seconds for the World Swimming Championship.
Phuoc's victory was all the more impressive because it came against more fancied rivals like Virdhawal Khade of India and Ng Chun Nam of Hong Kong and set a new Malaysian Open record.
Earlier, Phuoc had won the bronze medal in the 50m breaststroke by finishing the distance in 25.67 seconds.
In 2008, Quy Phuoc had emerged as a Vietnamese swimming phenomenon by winning eight gold medals at the Southeast Asian Swimming Clubs Competition; and two gold, three silver and two bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Swimming Championships.
Participating in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games for the first time in 2009, Phuoc upset 21-year-old compatriot Vo Thai Nguyen to win the bronze medal in the men's 100m butterfly.
Phuoc has received a lot of support from Da Nang City authorities since he was a child.
Early this year, he completed a 12-month training trip in Guangxi, China, and his efforts have paid off in his latest victory at the winning berths at the 2011 World Swimming Championship and the 2012 London Olympics.
Hoang Vinh Giang, Vietnam Olympics Committee General Secretary, said, "This is great news! Phuoc's achievement is a good sign of Vietnamese sports getting on the road to the Olympics. It also indicates Vietnamese athletes' huge potential for growth and proves Da Nang has made effective investments.
"Furthermore, it shows that Vietnamese sports authorities have pursued the right policy by encouraging localities to support their athletes. We are now confident that we can achieve the goal set by the General Department of Physical Training and Sports of having 20 athletes win berths at the 2012 Olympics."