Holding 13 individual National Records, Vietnam’s arguable best swimmer, Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên, is making some headlines outside the pool for a change. The 19-year-old athlete is entered in all 17 events at the 2016 National Swimming Championships, which kicked off in her country today, causing both coach and athlete to take some flak.
With Viên participating in every event at the Championships, Vietnam news outlet Tuoi Tre is reporting that some clubs are leaving swimmers home, so as to not compete against the two-time Olympian. However, championship organizers ruled that Viên is indeed permitted to swim in all events, as her coach, Dang Anh Tuan insists that the intense program is training preparation for the upcoming 2016 Asian Championships in Japan.
Viên most recently competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where the Vietnam Peoples’ Army swimmer notched a best finish of 9th place in the 4o0m IM. Her time of 4:36.85 was just .31 of a second shy of making the Olympic final, but her mark did garner Viên a new National Record.
While normally representing the military as Viên is indeed a Captain in the army, that organization has reportedly not approved her to compete at the national championships. As such, Viên will be representing the Ho Chi Minh City chapter of the National Sports Training Center, thus causing some discord between the army and Coach Tuan.
“After the disagreement with the army, coach Tuan signed Viên up without any approval from the military,” Tuoi Tre reports.
“Viên is in a tough situation where she, as a professional member of the army, chose to follow the orders of her coach, rather than the military,” a source told Tuoi Tre.
From the General Department of Sports and Physical Training’s point of view, the country’s top sporting body was uninformed of Viên’s intention to swim a monster schedule of 17 events.
A official of the organization told Tuoi Tre, “The general department’s view is that an athlete of international class like Viên should never attend the national championship.”
“We have requested that the medals Viên grabs at the competition, if any, not be counted as trophies for the National Sports Training Center in Ho Chi Minh City.”