Trần Kim Thêm is eyeing gold at the upcoming SEA Games. — Photo courtesy of Trần Kim Thêm
By Thanh Nga
Youthfulness, activeness and a desire to win are traits people can easily recognise in pencak silat martial artist Trần Kim Thêm.
At the age of 23, Thêm is setting her sights on a gold medal at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Two years ago, the Hà Tĩnh-born Thêm lost out on a gold medal in the women’s 55kg category due to a controversial decision in the final.
Now, she is ready to amend that at the region's biggest sports event. The SEA Games gold medal is the only thing lacking from her medal collection.
Thêm won gold medals at the Asian Pencak Silat Championship in India last October and the World Pencak Silat Championship in Singapore last December.
Thanks to Thêm, Việt Nam also proved their power at big events. They finished second at the World Pencak Silat Championship with six golds, three silvers and four bronzes, and topped the Asian tournament with 13 gold medals, leaving behind them runners-up Indonesia with only three gold medals.
“At continental competitions, referees are usually impartial. That is why Vietnamese martial artists achieve more at these events," said head coach Nguyễn Văn Hùng.
At the Hà Nội-based National Sports Training Centre, Thêm is training hard for the Games.
She is determined to win fairly so the referees have no choice but to judge her performance.
“I feel comfortable and don’t have any pressure on the upcoming Games. In the women’s 55kg category, all the athletes are very strong. However, I am ready for the Games,” said Thêm.
Trần Kim Thêm (second left) and her national pencak silat team are ready for SEA Games. — Photo courtesy of Trần Kim Thêm
“I've prepared very carefully for the event and I'm determined to win. The referees are an issue that my teammates and I have to accept. However, I think that if I put on a strong show, the referees will have to recognise it,” Thêm added.
Born in 1996 in Thạch Đồng Commune, Hà Tĩnh Province, in a poor family, Thêm started training when she was in eighth grade without permission from her parents. In 2012, she signed up for the provincial junior team, and two years later she was called up to the national senior team to train professionally in Hà Nội.
“I began to train when I was in eighth grade and skipped school to go to classes. My teacher phoned my mother and I was spanked.
“My mother thought that learning martial arts for a girl was very dangerous and would make it difficult for me to find a husband, so she tried to stop me. But I found a way to train, and after seeing my passion, my mother supported me,” said Thêm.
“When I started training professionally, my family backed me totally and my mother said I had made the family proud,” Thêm added.
According to Thêm, even as a martial artist, she is really afraid of confrontation.
“When I trained in martial arts, I also learnt many things about morality so I have never had to use kung fu,” said Thêm.
One of the difficulties Thêm faces is ensuring her weight ahead of the competition.
Thêm often weighs 57kg so she needs to drop 2kg to meet her weight division.
“In the summer, it is very hot, but I wear a raincoat to run. I follow a strict regime to keep my weight down,” said Thêm.
Due to the heavy training, Thêm sometimes loses sleep and suffers shoulder and neck injuries. However, her training has paid off.
Besides, world and Asian gold medals last year, Thêm also took silver at the World Pencak Silat Championship in 2015, gold at the ASEAN Pencak Silat Championship in 2016, gold at the Asian event in 2016, silver at the Asian Games in 2018, and a string of gold medals at the national championships.
This year, she also proved herself with a gold medal at the World Beach Pencak Silat Championship held in Thailand in October.
At present, Thêm is a fourth-year student at Bắc Ninh University of Physical Education and Sports. After retiring from competition, she intends to become a coach to train youngsters in Hà Tĩnh Province.
“I have around 10 years of training in pencak silat. In the future, I want to be a coach to train junior martial artists in my province. That is a chance for me to continue improving my knowledge and impart my experience,” said Thêm.
Việt Nam's pencak silat team will compete at the SEA Games from December 2-6 with 10 athletes competing in the men’s 50kg, 55kg and 60kg categories, and the women’s 50kg and 55kg divisions.
According to Nguyễn Văn Hùng, head coach of the national team, the have targeted only two gold medals because they are not strong in the lightweight divisions. — VNS