He showed special gratitude to Australian coach Joseph Donnelly.

Australian coach Joseph Donnelly. (Source: VTV)

In 2000 when Joseph Donnelly visited Hanoi, he, by chance, watched members of the Hanoi Rowing Club and the Vietnam national rowing team drilling in West Lake. He then met officials of the local rowing club and offered his help to the Vietnamese athletes.

As Joseph had been a famous Australian professional rower, he recognized the talent and energy of the Vietnamese rowers but also their lack of rowing techniques. He suggested buying standard boats and paddles, training in modern methods, and sending athletes to international competitions.

Furthermore, Joseph Donnelly actively provided support for Vietnam’s rowing. Especially, he worked as an expert voluntarily for Vietnam’s national rowing team. He himself covered all the costs of flying between Vietnam and Australia to find good training places for Vietnamese rowing athletes.

With his personal connections within the Australian sports sector, he helped the Vietnamese national rowing team minimize their living and training costs when they trained in Australia. During their training time in the country, he also mobilized his friends to buy and present a standard rowing boat worth US$ 20,000.

Rowing has been a sport event at the Olympics or ASIAD for many years, but this sport requires much investment for boats, training places and coaching fees. Although Vietnam wanted to develop this sport, it could not afford all of the costly investments for the national rowing team and, as a result, Vietnam’s rowing did not achieve high records at regional and international competitions.

“Vietnam’s rowing has been so lucky when receiving significant supports from Joseph Donnelly,” said Nguyen Hai Duong, Chief of the International Cooperation Office under the General Department of Sports and Secretary General of the Vietnam Canoeing, Rowing and Sailing Federation of the second term.

Regarding to the Australian expert’s contributions to the Vietnam Canoeing, Rowing and Sailing Federation, newly-elected President of the second term Duong Tri Thanh stressed that few would know about Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing if Joseph Donnelly had not come to Vietnam and rendered assistance to Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing.

“7 years ago, Vietnam did not have its name on the Asian rowing map. But Vietnamese rowing and canoeing athletes have continuously won many medals, including golds, at world and Asian competitions as well as SEA Games and ASIAD in recent years. Joseph Donnelly has contributed much to the great achievements of Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing,” he affirmed.

In a meeting with the press and media at the West Lake Rowing Club, the Australian expert said that he came to Vietnam for a tour but fate has tied him up with Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing, as well as the country.

“During my time working with Vietnamese athletes, I have seen their great energy, endless endeavors and aspirations for records, which have provided a driving force for me to overcome difficulties in weather, geography, language as well as my age, and have an increasingly strong attachment to Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing, and the country as a whole,” he confided.

“I believe that Vietnam will continue to win more successes at upcoming important competitions like ASIAD and elimination rounds of the Olympics 2020,” he affirmed.

Living and working in Vietnam, he knows that budgets for canoeing and rowing are limited. So he seeks to reduce the costs to be spent on him and to try to cover parts of costs for the Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing teams.

Nguyen Hai Duong recalled, “Once Joseph Donnelly was flying to Hanoi, we told him that we would go to Noi Bai Airport to receive him. But he rejected this and said he would get a bus to the city’s center. When the Vietnam canoeing and rowing teams trained in Australia, he mobilized his friends and local donors to cover Vietnamese athletes’ accommodation and living and traveling expenses. He did all of this for Vietnam’s canoeing and rowing in the hope that Vietnamese athletes would improve their records and win more medals at international competitions.”

With great supports of Joseph Donnelly, Vietnam was the only country in Southeast Asia that had two rowing boats competing at the Olympics in Rio Brazil 2016 and Vietnam’s rowing has dominated Asian and Southeast Asian rowing events in recent years.

Translated by Thu Nguyen