|First blood: Young karate athlete Thach Thi Trang celebrates after winning the gold medal at the 26th SEA Games in Indonesia. — VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Khanh
HA NOI — Young karate athlete Thach Thi Trang surprised her coaching staff by boosting team morale with a win in the women’s kumite (combat) 68kg category at the 26th SEA Games just finished in Indonesia.
Trang’s victory was all the more meaningful because she defeated the host country’s Mardiah Nasution in the final round in spite of a bloody nose.
There was a pause in the match as doctors tried to stop the bleeding after Nasution punched her in the face. The medical team spent a great deal of time and effort but had difficulty stopping the flow of blood and they were worried that Thanh wouldn’t be able to finish the match, forcing a forfeit. Finally she was able to go on in spite of the injury.
“I am very happy to take the gold medal in my first appearance at the SEA Games. This is exactly what I dared not to think of. I understand that people have high expectations of me so I just want to carry on with the competition without thinking about anything else,” Trang said.
Trang began her path to glory with a big stroke of luck as she was moved straight to the next round without taking part in the preliminary round. In the semi-final, she faced a huge obstacle: Malaysian Jamalliah Jamaludin, the defending champion and also the silver medallist at the 16th Asian Games (ASIAD) in China.
Coach Le Cong said: “Trang is slow and is bad at handling contingencies while the Malaysian athlete has much more experience. We encouraged her will and spirit by saying: ‘You are the first ethnic Khmer person taking part in the SEA Games and you could be the first to receive a medal. You fight not only for yourself but also for your compatriots’.”
Trang found the initiative to attack her rival with constant movements and powerful punches and kicks for a 2-0 win. After her triumph, she changed her tactics under the instruction her coach for a more comfortable final round.
The psychological situation helped Trang overcome the significant pressure imposed by the Indonesian supporters at the Tennis Indoor Stadium. She quickly took a seven point lead to ensure victory.
After training Trang for many years, the coach knows her strong and weak points. In reference to ways she could improve in the future, Cong said: “At present, Trang only competes against Southeast Asian rivals. If she wants to take part in Asian tournaments like ASIAD 16 gold medallist Le Bich Phuong and runner-up Vu Thi Nguyet Anh, she has to improve her speed and capability to react to the unexpected as well as gain experience by participating in many competitions.”
Trang was born into a poor Khmer family of seven children in the southern province of Tra Vinh.At the age 13, she started to practise karate with friends in the village without asking her parents’ permission. A few months later, she had to tell them the truth after bringing home a gold medal from a competition organised by the province. Her endeavour and unstoppable practice were repaid with a position in the Viet Nam national karate team in 2008. Trang grabbed a silver medal at her first showing in the South Korea Open International Karate Championship in 2010. — VNS