by Vu Lan Dung
(VNS) Vietnamese paragliders didn't make the top three in either the men's or women's event at the first Viet Nam Paragliding Open held recently in the northern province of Hoa Binh.
|Flying high: A paraglider in the sky before landing in a circle with a diameter of only 10m.
However, Tengku Abdillah Bin Tengku Hassan, vice-president of the International Air Sports Federation for East and Southeast Asia, said that Vietnamese competitors had improved since the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia last year.
"Vietnamese paragliders were not good at first, but they quickly learned from athletes from other countries," he said. "When they returned to Viet Nam, they knew how to practise correctly," he said.
Paragliding involves taking off from the top of a hill on a motorless cloth and glider.
Hassan said that the sport could quickly develop if governments helped provide equipment, gave pilots access to suitable high places and encouraged training. "You can see how much Viet Nam's badminton and sepak takraw have improved over the past 10 years. That's all thanks to the Government," Hassan said.
"Viet Nam has a lot of potential to develop air sports," he added. "The Malaysia Sports Aviation Federation sent referees to Viet Nam to train budding paragliders and is prepared to organise training. We will invite top performers from Europe so that Asian competitors can learn international standards."
Hassan said Malaysia was also trying to establish the sport in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Nguyen Tran Thi Anh, who brought home a silver medal in the women's event at the third Thailand Paragliding King's Cup Open in April, said she admired Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai paragliders.
Paragliding has become more popular in Ha Noi and HCM City in recent years. Four clubs in the two cities have a total of about 200 members.
Pham Quang Tuan, president of the Ha Noi Vietwings Club, said: "People of all ages can join if they don't have heart disease or high blood pressure."
He added that it cost around VND20 million (US$960) to learn to fly, which was not expensive if compared to owning a motorbike.
Newcomers are taught how to take off and land and check the wind direction. They are not allowed to take off if the weather is cloudy or rainy and the speed of the wind is more than seven metres a second. Participants first practise on low hills with an instructor before being allowed to fly solo.
"Paragliders receive information on wind direction and speed through walkie-talkies," Tuan said, adding that when the weather was not perfect, fliers had to climb down with all their gear.
Journalist Pham Thu Trang was attracted by paragliding after making a report on a local tournament for the Radio the Voice of Vietnam.
"I was very worried at first, even though I was with an experienced pilot, but I said to myself that if others could do it, so could I," she said.
"The great experience urged me to register for their course, flying a paraglider is completely different from sitting on a plane. If the wind is strong, you can glide in the sky for a long time and view the beauty of the land from above."
One of the oldest fliers, Nguyen Huu Nam, who is more than 60, chose paragliding as a way to reduce stress. "It makes me feel I have a power that I have never had before," he said.
Ha Noi paragliders often practice on Vien Nam Mountain in Thach That District's Yen Binh Commune and Doi Bu Mountain in Chuong My District's Nam Phuong Tien Commune. — VNS