Châu Hoàng Tuyết Loan trains hard to prepare for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics 2020. — Photo courtesy of Châu Hoàng Tuyết Loan
Despite being paralysed in both legs and once suffering a terrible throat cancer, Châu Hoàng Tuyết Loan has extraordinary reserves of energy. The 46-year-old powerlifter is about to go to Tokyo for her fifth consecutive Paralympics.
Loan has been training hard in the Thủ Đức gymnasium in HCM City to prepare for the upcoming global sports event for the disabled. The powerlifter is considered part of the extraordinary strength and will of the Vietnamese disabled sports team.
“It is my fifth Paralympics in a row. Earlier, I competed in the Paralympics in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. I will try my best in the women’s 55kg category in Tokyo,” Loan told Việt Nam News. “Because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, during the past two years, I haven’t competed in many events to hone my skills but now I have the best spirit to be ready for the Tokyo event.”
At the age of six, Loan was paralysed in both legs. So, the little girl had to rely on both hands. All her activities were extremely difficult. Only later was she able to use a wheelchair.
As a poor girl from the southern province of Khánh Hòa, giving up was never on her mind, and she remained courageous, optimistic and energetic. Nothing bothered her, though her physical defects took a long time to get used to.
Eventually, she found a love for tailoring after experiencing many professions. She sewed beautifully and many people loved her.
But for Loan, life would lack meaning if she simply sat next to a sewing machine for her whole life, so she looked for a sport to push her limits.
In 2002, she fell in love with weightlifting. In a sport that requires will and strength, Loan never gives up. She uses all her free time to practise. In every competition, she tries her best to prove that the path she is on is the right one.
When Loan started playing sports, gyms for the disabled were a distant dream. She had to ask to practise at noon when everyone was sleeping, and often had to cede the gym for others.
Loan said her biggest obsession was not waiting to get into practice, but using her wheelchair to find and enter the gym. The roads were bumpy and gyms did not have access for wheelchairs. There were very few roads and gyms designed for the disabled. Without her drive and passion, she would have given up. But Loan is no ordinary woman.
“My family supported and encouraged me to find somewhere to practise. That gave me more energy to go through long distances, rainy days and sunny days," said Loan.
“In 2002, I joined the weightlifting team of Khánh Hòa Province to compete in the national championship for the disabled in Huế. I never thought that I would win because I didn’t have any experience. But luckily, in that first tournament I won a gold medal and set a national record in the women’s 42kg division with 65kg.
“In 2005, I took part in the Para Games in the Philippines and took gold medal with a lift of 87kg in the 48kg category and broke the Games record.”
Consecutive medals in domestic and international tournaments have since molded the will and energy of Loan. However, fate kept playing tricks on her.
In the early 2010s, Loan was diagnosed with throat cancer. However, she did not give up, keeping her optimism, loving life and using her power to fight the often deadly disease.
Châu Hoàng Tuyết Loan poses with her gold medal at the Para Games in 2015. — VNA/VNS Photo Lê Hải
After getting sick, Loan took a break to focus on treatment, and beat cancer after a year of treatment. After that, she got straight back into the gym.
In a short time, she regained her strength to win a ticket to the Paralympics in London in 2012.
The story of Loan has even been shown in a tearful but heroic report by the BBC. It showed Loan’s formidable courage.
The report left many in tears, and she gained respect and deep admiration from sports lovers all over the world.
“In nearly 20 years of competing, attending the 2012 Paralympics is my most memorable memory. Escaping death and facing the world's best athletes with everyone's cheers was true happiness," said Loan.
In 2012, Loan's achievement was ranked third in the world by the International Paralympics Committee. However, the cancer treatment took away a lot of her energy and form, so at the 2012 Paralympics, she only finished fifth in the 52kg category, lifting 104kg.
A year later, at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games, Loan lifted 103kg to win a gold medal and broke her own Southeast Asian record. Loan set a new regional record when she was 42 years old.
Châu Hoàng Tuyết Loan seen at the Para Games in 2017. — Photo cand.com.vn
Despite missing opportunities at the Paralympics, Loan is still the weightlifting queen of Southeast Asia via the Para Games in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. She also gained silver medals in the Asia championships in recent years.
Currently, Loan only has a training and competition regime when she is recruited for the national team or on duty for her province. However, that is only a few months a year, and each month she receives only VNĐ6 million (US$260). However, she is not too concerned, and keeps working hard.
Despite being 46 and the effects of the pandemic taking a toll, Loan continues to practise hard and overcome adversity to represent Việt Nam at the Tokyo Paralympics.
All Loan’s life she has served the sports industry without personnel and salary, only receiving any payments on the few days she trains and compete for the team. When she retires, she plans to open a café to make a living. Few would bet against her. VNS
Loan and her teammates. — Photo courtesy of Châu Hoàng Tuyết Loan