Vietnam’s Bobsled Team is preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, if the athletes qualify, it would be the first time Vietnam has ever competed in the Winter Olympics.
According to a Viet Nam News feature, team captain Nguyễn Dân An first learned of the obscure winter sport while working in America in 2014. A self-professed “speed addict and an auto racer,” An immediately fell in love with the idea of careening down an ice track in a compact metal sled at speeds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. When he failed to make a team in America, where he holds dual-citizenship, he set his sights on establishing a program in Vietnam.
After returning to Vietnam in 2016, An received permission to start a team from Hoàng Vĩnh Giang, Vice Chair of the Vietnam Olympic Committee. With the help of social media, An recruited Trần Thị Đoan Trang, Vietnam’s leading female auto racer, and Trần Văn Hóa, the SEA Games weightlifting champion, and later added three more exceptional athletes from other sports: Lê Khương Anh Tú, Nguyễn Vân Khánh, and Trần Văn Quí.
In September 2020, the six traveled to Pyeongchang, South Korea, the site of the 2016 Winter Olympics, to train with other athletes from Southeast Asia through Spring 2021 as part of a program titled The New Horizon Sliding Champions. All costs of the training, accommodations, meals and travel for the program is sponsored by the South Korean program.
Once the team returns to Vietnam, they will undergo strength and conditioning training, as well as additional practice using a sled on wheels. They will also look for sponsorship to offset costs and support their pursuit of representing Vietnam in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
To qualify for the Olympics, they must compete in at least eight different sanctioned international competitions and achieve a high enough cumulative ranking. There are different categories for bobsled races: 4-person, 2-person, and for the first time in 2022, 1-person. Trang, who competes in the 1-person female event, is seen as having the best chances to qualify based on her performance at a recent competition.
While a team hailing from a largely tropical country taking part in a sport that places athletes atop ice may seem strange, Vietnam would not be the first nation to do so. Ghana and Nigeria have competed in bobsled, as has the Caribbean island country of Jamaica, as chronicled in the 1993 cinematic masterpiece “Cool Runnings.”
As An and the team prepares, they are still looking for one more female athlete to join. She needs to be 1.65 meters or taller and weigh over 65 kg.
According to the news source, the team has encountered numerous challenges, including being away from home during the Tet holiday and financial pressures. But An explains: “I believe that we, Vietnamese people, have the talent and physical aspect to be competitive in these sports. The most important thing is how bad we want to do it. I just also want to bring opportunities to the next generation.”