Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Thirty-five-year-old-swimmer Hà Văn Hiệp burst into tears when he received a gold medal for the men’s SB3 50m breaststroke at the ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia, his first international gold after 10 years of hard training.
He is Việt Nam’s Para Games swimmer with the most serious disability, suffering from a crooked backbone, weak left arm and paralysed legs. However, he can swim well.
When he was three years old, he was like most children, however a polio infection left all his limbs paralysed.
“My parents had to sell all fields and gardens to treat me. We still haven’t paid off all the debts. After that, my arms gradually recovered but my left arm is still weak,” said Hiệp.
Instead of being discouraged, he regularly swam with his friends in a river near his home in the southern province of Cần Thơ, and little by little, he learned to swim as well as his friends.
In 2007, he competed in a national sports tournament for the disabled for the first time and won a surprise gold medal. Now, he is the undisputed number one in his category on a national level.
At previous international events, there were few contests for his category due to a lack of fellow athletes, forcing him to race swimmers with less debilitating disabilities, leaving Hiệp with no gold medals.
Despite this, he never gave up his goal of winning an international gold medal.
Over the past 10 years, he moved to HCM City to train and his efforts were repaid with a gold medal in Malaysia.
“I cried when the Việt Nam national anthem resounded. I have been unsuccessful at international events for 10 years. I still believed that I would have a happy day,” said Hiệp.
Still useful for life
“I gave part of my prize money to my parents to pay their debts. I keep the rest for myself. I won’t be a burden for anoyne,” said Hiệp.
Besides training and competing, Hiệp offers free Vietnamese traditional medicine to poor people, including acupuncture.
“Many people are less happy than me. So I help them recover from illness with acupuncture and my medicine,” said Hiệp.
Hiệp also graduated from training courses in fine arts and graphic design in his free time.
“After finishing my career as an athlete, I want to have enough money to open a photo shop. It is a dream but I will make every effort. The gold medal at the ASEAN Para Games proved that. I finally achieved my dream,” said Hiệp. — VNS