|Synchronised: The gold medal winning Vietnamese trio perform at the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar on December 18. The taekwondo artists completed their international title collection with their latest victory. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
HA NOI (VNS)— World champions Chau Tuyet Van, Nguyen Thi Thu Ngan and Nguyen Thi Le Kim completed their gold medal collection after grabbing their first Southeast Asian (SEA) Games title in Myanmar.
While the three girls came to taekwondo along different paths, yet all have been inspired to conquer the world, including the SEA Games, which is the most important tournament for every Vietnamese athlete.
Van is now considered one of the best poomsae athletes in the world, with four world titles and on top in Asia.
She first learned about martial arts after falling in love with the taekwondo uniform. Van asked her parents to give her a chance to enrol, and the martial art converted Van from being a snivelling and sickly girl, to become strong and confident.
However, at that time poomsae did not receive attention from the public. All of her efforts in training, practising and performing were not recognised, because there was no poomsae event at the national level.
After years of training without a future, many of her teammates quit. It made Van think a lot and sometimes she also wanted to compete in a different martial art.
However, things changed about five years ago when this isolated branch of taekwondo gradually attracted the focus of the public.
Van, at that time, became one of the sport's key athletes. With her strong foundation and influential skills, which allowed her to train with South Korean experts, she stepped onto the world stage.
In the world tournament in 2009, Van and two other teammates took a silver medal in their debut, her first achievement after 11 years of practising.
"As a performing artist, I have to train hard everyday. At first, my muscles were stiff and I could not kick high or spread my legs. It hurt so much that I cried, but I also told myself that after the hurt, I would be better," said Van, now 23.
Different from Van, Ngan became a taekwondo athlete by following her parents, who are famous artists in HCM City.
The girl showed great talent prematurely, and started training with her two coaches at the age of seven.
"Mom guided me to follow the martial art. She always created the best conditions for me, encouraged me after failures and supported me a lot," said Ngan.
After a short break for academic studies, Ngan returned to taekwondo in 2008 and became a member of the Military team.
A comeback was not easy, but her coach, Nguyen Thanh Huy, now the national coach, strongly assisted as Ngan became an elite athlete.
Now, apart from training, Ngan, 27, also takes charge of the younger generation of the Military team.
Kim is the youngest of the three.
One day the 10-year-old girl followed her cousin to a taekwondo class and was really interested with the beautiful performance. She then became an active member of the class.
Coach Nguyen Viet Hung soon found that the new girl had great potential and she was selected to receive intensive training.
The Binh Thuan Province-born athlete was given the opportunity to take part in higher level classes, which included lectures from foreign experts.
In 2010, Kim pocketed two silver medals, in both individual and team events at the national championships, and she was called to the national team.
"In my first days on the national team I was nervous, when I saw many seniors practising with advanced skills. I thought that I could not let them leave me behind, so I spent all my time training," Kim said.
"I was teamed with Van and Ngan, although I was confused as to whether we could find the same voice in working together, because we had not known each other.
"We had to come to talk and share our own opinions. We know that to achieve success we have to understand and sympathise with each other. Now we are a perfect team, with harmonious and beautiful moves," Kim added.
In Kim's first time on the national team in 2010, the trio took part in the world championships in Uzbekistan. They made Vietnamese history there: winning a gold medal.
"It would be my best memory because it was the first gold won at a world championship. I did not even think about winning a bronze medal before taking part in that tournament," said Van.
Then in 2011 they successfully defended their title in Russia.
In this second competition for Kim, she also won a silver medal in the individual event, which was a new record for Viet Nam. Previously, the best result had been a bronze medal.
In the Military World Taekwondo Championship in 2012 in HCM City, the team also dominated in the first poomsae competition.
Two months ago in Bali, Indonesia, Van-Ngan-Kim, for the third time, stepped up to the winners' podium after an outstanding performance, which persuaded both the judges and spectators.
"Be patient and training hard are keys to success, because there is no easy victory," said Kim, 21.
When the 25th SEA Games was in Laos in 2009, though Kim was not yet a national team member, Van, Ngan and Duong Huynh Mai won a bronze medal, although they displayed highly skilled performances. The loss made the girls cry, and became the worst memory in their careers.
Two years later in Indonesia, they changed the colour of the medal they won to silver.
In this year's Games, with strong support after the world title, they each had stunning performances that were at a higher level, compared to other teams, and judges had no choice but to award them the gold medal.
"Twice, we had come to the Games as world champions, but failed to win gold. Now we've done it. I am really happy," said the crying Ngan, who added that the 27th Games would be her final competition, therefore the gold medal became was even more meaningful to her.
Meanwhile, Van and Kim said the SEA Games would always be important to them. The event was so hard that even a world champion could be a loser. They said they won this time because of their composure, confidence, determination and the strong support of the home fans. — VNS