Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — “Daddy, bring me a gold medal, ok?” Lê Tuấn Anh always tells his father, Lê Văn Công, whenever he calls him during his training courses or competitions far from home.
And the powerlifter has never disappointed his little son.
Công has left for the Rio Paralympic Games and hopes to bring home a gold as a gift for his most loyal and ‘crazy’ fan.
The world record holder in the men’s up-to-49kg class has his opportunity although there will be powerful rivals waiting.
“I have trained hard since the beginning of this year. I think my physique and technique have improved and I am excited to compete,” Công said in an interview to Việt Nam News.
“I face no pressure in this event although there will be two other world champions competing. What I need is to overcome myself,” Công says.
In his category there are 10 participants. Công will set up a tantalising clash against the world and Paralympic champion Yakubu Adesokan from Nigeria. Another title favourite is Jordan’s Omar Sami Hamadeh Qarada.
Công won a gold medal with a lift of 180kg at the World Powerlifting Cup in Malaysia in February when he was suffering from high temperature. Earlier, he pocketed a gold at the Asian championship and another title, and then broke his own world record with a result of 182kg, in the tournament’s Open category in Kazakhstan in 2015.
At the South Korean Asian Games in 2014 he grabbed a gold, and for the first time set a world record in lifting 181.5kg, which was four times heavier than his weight.
His rival Adesokan won a gold at the London Games in the up-to-48kg class in 2012. He followed this up with a world title in the under-49kg in 2014 and sealed a silver at the 2015 Asian Open Championships.
In Rio, Adesokan will realise his dream of competing on the world stage once again and will attempt to retain his Paralympic title.
Qarada is another name to watch out for. He is third in the Paralympic rankings behind Adesokan and Công based on a 176kg result from the IPC Powerlifting World Cup in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in February.
Fans can expect to see a particularly close contest between them, where the Vietnamese powerlifter will aim to emulate his Nigerian rival’s Paralympic debut with his own impressive performance.
“There is an equal chance for athletes as their results are nearly the same,” coach Nguyễn Hồng Phúc says.
“However, I think the contest for the gold will be between Công and Adesokan as the latter ranks higher in the ICP table,” he added.
“But in sport, there is also a competition in mentality. Whosoever can manage his mentality better is the winner. So, the important thing here is a free mind and big determination.” Phúc says.
Born with contracted legs, Công grew up in a poor family of five siblings in Hà Tĩnh Province in 1984. He left home at the age of 19 to take part in a vocational school for people with disabilities in HCM City. It was the time that he practised powerlifting, just to become healthier.
“It was exhausting in the first days of training, with aches and pains all over. But I found myself becoming stronger and more confident,” Công recalls.
In the same year he was selected to take part in the national games for disabled people and pocketed a silver.
“Normally a person like him needs at least two years to take part in a tournament. But he needed only half of that. It was really impressive,” Phúc, who discovered Công’s talent, says.
Two years after his first day, Công grabbed a gold medal at the ASEAN Para Games’ under-48kg pool in 2007. He has been a key athlete of Việt Nam since then at all competitions for the disabled.
In the year after that he qualified for the Beijing Games but did not enter the medal list.
Công failed to make the cut at the London Games as he suffered a shoulder injury in 2011 and rested for two years.
At a spectacular comeback, Công won an Asian title in 2013 in the under-49kg. And then he had no difficulty in triumphing and set an Asian record of 176kg at the ASEAN Para Games a year later.
He went on to finish second at the world championship in Dubai in the same year with a lift of 180kg, 1kg less than winner Adesokan.
“He is very hard working and has a will of iron. It proved in his comeback after injury due to an accident. In many cases people give up but he did not. He was back in action and did his best,” Phúc said about his player who, apart from lifting activities, is also an electricity engineer.
His world record of 182kg at the Malaysian World Cup was his best ever result where Công believed he had peaked.
On the day that he set the first world record in his career in 2014 his family and all neighbours were sitting around his old TV at his small house in HCM City. Among them was his boy who also joined in with the adults cheering loudly to celebrate his victory.
The boy then ran around and told everyone he met on his way “My father got a gold”.
“Whenever I phone him, he always asks a gold from me, and wants me quickly return home to play with him. I am really moved listening to him and his words are my strong force to work harder and compete better,” Công says. He thanks the sport for changing his life.
What he needs is a Paralympics’ gold medal to fulfil his title collection and make his life perfect.
Công and teammates left for Rio on August 30. His tournament will be organised on September 9, the opening day of competitions at the Riocentro – Pavilion 2. — VNS