Viet Nam News Twenty-one-year-old Nguyễn Thùy Linh is the greatest hope for Việt Nam’s badminton in international competition, having taken steady steps on the way to being its “X-Factor”.
She won her first gold medal at the age of 13, became champion in an international tournament at 19 and achieved a number of other achievements at a young age.
Today, she ranks second in Việt Nam and 62nd in the world. However, her journey to this point has not been easy. Linh talks to Hồ Hoàng about her difficult but inspirational road to success.
Inner Sanctum: How did destiny lead you to hold a badminton racket?
It all started when I was a little girl. My grandfather is a badminton enthusiast. He discovered my ability for this sport and placed all his hopes on me. He trained me, took me to every tournament, and every court in my hometown Phú Thọ.
He guided me to become a professional. My life took a decisive big turn when he sent me to Hà Nội to join a talented badminton team when I was 10. That formed the base of my career.
Inner Sanctum: Your grandfather seems to have had a huge influence in your career, can you tell us more about him?
He is my hero, and my greatest inspiration. I inherited his passion for the game and learned a lot from him. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have discovered my talent that early.
I still remember the first time I competed in a tournament; it was a city tournament meant for students. My grandfather was always there to encourage me. When I won the tournament, he hugged me tightly, shedding happy tears. I’m always motivated whenever I think of that moment.
Inner Sanctum: Did you face any difficulty on your way and how did you overcome it?
Despite my grandfather’s wholehearted support for my career, my mother disagreed with my choice. She felt badminton was too harsh a game for a girl and I had no future in the sport. So she forbid me to take it up seriously. I had to stop playing badminton for two years because of my family’s objection. They took away my racket. It was a really bad time for me.
Although they forbade me to play the game, it could not quell my fiery desire. I used to bunk school to play badminton. When my mother found out, she scolded me. Luckily, my grandfather didn’t give up on me; he was constantly picking me up after school and taking me to practise badminton every day, come rain or sunshine. I couldn’t have done it without him.
Seeing my determination, my family understood my passion and accepted my decision. I was happy that I could finally dedicate time for badminton.
Inner Sanctum: Have you ever faced any mental breakdown throughout your career?
“Not many people know that I cried for two days after the SEA GAME 29 in Malaysia. It was the saddest moment of my career. Before the tournament, I did not prepare well. Even though I got a chance to win the medal, I wasted it. I still remember the final set against Malaysia’s Sonia Su Ya. The gap between us was not huge, with the score being 11-10 for me, but somehow, I lost my concentration and fell into the opponent’s trap. Ya won 11 points while I won only one and lost the match 12-21.
I was shocked; I locked myself in and cried. I was desperate and wanted to quit badminton. I used to judge myself whether I deserved to continue or not. Fortunately, I could collect myself, thanks to encouragement from my coaches, family and friends. My grandfather’s words especially motivated me to go on. He said, “I wish you could reach the top one day and bring honour to the country and family.”
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell me about your most remarkable moment so far?
It was the time I won the Nepal International Series in 2016, which was my first international trophy. I did not lose any set and that was remarkable. Another interesting thing is that the picture with the cup which I had uploaded on Facebook somehow got more than 200,000 likes. I was shocked, but in a delighted way.
Another great memory is of the Italian International a year later. I beat second seed Beatriz Corrales from Spain in the third round before facing Line Christophersen from Denmark in the final.
It was an exhausting three sets. I still remember the last set. At one moment I was being led by four points. And I did what I always do whenever the opponent’s leading: I slowed down in my game, closed my eyes and tried to calm down. I was thinking what I should do to fix things. I said to myself, “The most important thing is not to give up, not this time.” Then I kept fighting until the end and my effort paid off. I beat Christophersen 23-21 and won my next international trophy. It was unforgettable.
Inner Sanctum: After certain success, receiving applauses and attentions from fans and journalists, what is your way of focusing and keeping your feet on the ground?
Well for me, until now I haven’t considered myself a successful player, so when I have a clear recognition about myself, I’m only focusing on practising to be better.
Of course I am very happy to receive love from the people, but I will never forget that my target is to be on top. My family, coaches and friends are also my big fulcrum. Whenever I lose my way, they will always be there to help me get back on track. — VNS