Noble dreams of athletes born in Year of Horse

Wednesday, 2014-01-29 06:00:00
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Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son
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Nhan Dan – Although some have retired, most of the class of Vietnamese athletes born in 1990, the Year of the Horse, have remained faithful to their chosen ways and are nurturing great ambitions for the upcoming Year of the Horse in 2014.

Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (Chess)

Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son became one of the world’s youngest international grandmasters at the age of 14. From this auspicious beginning, however, Son has not received proper investment as has his teammate, Le Quang Liem, who has reached a world-class level of play.

Despite the disadvantages, Son has clearly demonstrated his innate talent at recent competitions such as the 2013 World Rapid and Blitz Championships, in which he finished fifth in the blitz event with 19.5 points, just one point fewer than the world champion, Quang Liem. At the 27th SEA Games in December 2013, Son came back strongly as a pillar of the national chess team, winning two precious gold medals for Vietnam in both the men’s blitz and rapid chess categories. Son is gradually and modestly rekindling his passion for chess, as well as his concentration on his chess career.

“I always consider Quang Liem my closest teammate, which continuously reminds me to make constant efforts in order to avoid lagging behind him”, Son shared. “Like other sports, chess requires an investment of time and regular training. My objectives for 2014 are to improve my FIDE world ranking and to continue conquering big competitions along with Liem and my other teammates”.

Nguyen Mai Phuong (Wushu)

After winning the only gold medal for Vietnamese Wushu in the women’s Taolu (demonstration) event at the 26th SEA Games in 2011, Nguyen Mai Phuong officially retired and chose a new career path as the coach of the Hanoi youth Wushu team. With over ten years of experience training and competing as a Wushu athlete, Mai Phuong seems to fully understand the hardships the athletes face while pursuing this form of martial art. Perhaps this is why Phuong wants to share her experience and dedication with the younger generation.

“Training the kids sometimes reminds me of the past when we had to live far from our families at yearlong training courses in China. Despite the hardships and disadvantages I’ve confronted while pursuing the career of a Wushu athlete, I am still proud of the direction I chose”, Phuong said.

The young trainer appears to be very happy with her current job training the country’s future Wushu talent. That feeling will surely stand by Phuong until the end of her life; as she once stressed: “Never quit Wushu”.

Nguyen Thi Lua (Wrestling)

Despite her injured shoulders, Nguyen Thi Lua managed to bring home a precious silver medal for Vietnam at the 2010 Asian Games (Asiad) in Guangzhou, China. After returning from the competition, Lua had to go straight to the hospital for examination.

It is hard to believe that Lua came back ‘empty-handed’ from three consecutive SEA Games, from 2007 to 2011, considering her sizeable collection of international medals. Lua was simply too strong for the regional level. Other opponents in her favoured 48kg weight class decided to quit the competition for fear of her strength, which forced the discipline to be excluded from the SEA Games’ programme.

Missing opportunities to shine at the regional arena boosted Lua’s determination to ‘avenge’ herself on the continental level. This year, Lua will go to the Republic of Korea as a member of the national wrestling team to compete in the 17th Asiad, with the main objective of matching her 48kg silver medal, and hopefully, changing the medal’s colour. “At the previous Asiad competition, I unfortunately missed out on the gold medal due to a shoulder injury I carried into the finals. The upcoming tournament is an ideal opportunity for me to get my revenge”, Lua said.

Le Bich Phuong (Karate)

Two months ahead of the 27th SEA Games, Phuong was unlucky to suffer an extremely serious knee injury during training, which deprived her of the chance to defend her title at the region’s biggest sporting event. Worries have arisen regarding whether Phuong will make a timely recovery and take part in the 2014 Asiad.

Phuong walked away with Vietnam’s only gold medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, saving the national sports contingent from a gold-less games. Four years later, Phuong has matured greatly in both expertise and competitiveness, and remains one of the national karate team’s brightest hopes at the upcoming games in Incheon.

It may take Phuong three to six months to recover from her current injuries, which means the defending Asiad champion would have just half a year to prepare for her dream of title defence. “Despite knowing that injury is inevitable, getting injured at this time really worries me a lot. However, I believe that there is still enough time for me to recover and get back in form in preparation for the 2014 Asiad”, Phuong said.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc (Track and field)

Upon hearing the name Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuc, Vietnam sports fans cannot help but recall the silver medal she won at the Asian 20km Race Walking Championships in Japan last March, which put her through to the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships hosted in Moscow five months later. At the 2012 Asian competition, she also performed outstandingly, walking away with the bronze in the 20km event and making her way to the London Olympic Games. Phuc arrived in Myanmar in December 2013 to defend her race walking gold medal at the 27th SEA Games which was, however, just a stepping stone for this diminutive superstar to progress to the Asiad stage.

The daily image of a small girl walking resolutely on the roads of the city has become familiar to most of Da Nang’s citizens. ‘I walk up to 10km almost every day, excluding only the days when I am sick. Winning a regional gold medal requires hard work but it is not enough for such a big platform as Asiad,’ Phuc said.

Despite the numerous obstacles ahead, Phuc has made up her mind to train hard at every possible moment, waiting for the day to create a stir in the continental arena.

MAI HUONG