|Trần Văn Nguyên competes in the men's F40/41 shot put event in the 11th Para Games on August 1 in Indonesia. He bags a silver medal. VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI -- Trần Văn Nguyên stands only 1.27m and has short arms and legs. But he has long dominated the top podiums of many competitions.
Nguyên, who won two titles at the recent ASEAN Para Games, has now set his sight on the stronger, higher, tougher Paralympics in Paris in 2024.
Growing up with dwarfism
Born in 1990, Nguyên was the only child in his four-sibling family suffering dwarfism in Bình Đinh Province.
As he grew up he gradually recognised his difference in terms of size compared with other children.
"The more I grew up, the shorter I was compared to friends who often tried to tease me. First, I was angry with them. But then, it became a shame and inferiority complex," Nguyên said.
"Every day, I lived in torment, asking God why I was like that."
However, time is a miracle cure. Nguyên knew he could not be pessimistic about his life but stood up to build it his own way.
"He (God) did not give me a perfect stature, but I have the right to build a beautiful life," he said.
Earning his college certificate, Nguyên found his job in an electronic company in HCM City's Củ Chi District in 2017.
|Trần Văn Nguyên poses with a javelin gold medal of the 11th ASEAN Para Games. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Nguyên|
Nguyên believed that a job would bring his life to a new chapter. It did, but in a different way from how he imagined.
Nguyên noticed a woman the same height as him practising javelin throwing.
"I admired her. She could do such an extraordinary job. Why couldn't I? I asked her help and was introduced to the city's training centre for athletes with disabilities," he said.
After several tests, coaches found talent in their new athlete, and Nguyên was recruited to practise more.
"My first throws surprised coaches because they were much better than those who had practised for months. Coaches came to measure me and said, 'yes, his height is suitable for the dwarfism category,' and I became an athlete," he said.
Nguyên grabbed three gold medals in the shot put, javelin and discus throws at the national championship for the disabled.
He was called to the national team preparing for the Malaysian ASEAN Para Games in the same year. It was only three months before switching from worker to a competitor.
"The more I practised, the more I loved athletics, and my results improved. It seemed that I had ability and grew up in a working family that gave me strong arms that were helpful in throwing," Nguyên told Việt Nam News.
In his Para Games debut, Nguyên championed two javelin events and the shot put.
"I was nervous because I just was a new fish in the tank. I had not even been familiar with domestic tournaments yet. However, by a miracle, my results were even better than in practice. I was excited with the achievement," he said.
He continued his outstanding performance with two bronzes in the javelin. He did well at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Indonesia and bagged a javelin gold in China's 2019 World Para Athletics Grand Prix.
Nguyên was a favourite candidate to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021. However, a shoulder injury in 2020 prevented him from participating in qualification tournaments. He fell out of the world's top six whereby he would have automatically qualified.
|Trần Văn Nguyên (left) and an athlete pose for a photo after they competed in the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Rades Stadium in Tunisia. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Nguyên|
"It was sad to see such a big chance running away from my reach. I regretted that I could not join in the world's biggest sports festival for people like me," he said. "But I will make it another time."
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Nguyên and many athletes to stay away from competitions for almost two years.
But when the tournaments resumed, he returned to his habit of being on top of the podium.
Nguyên was among Vietnamese winners at the 2022 World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Rades Stadium, in Tunisia, in June.
He took gold in the F40/41 javelin event and a silver in the shot put.
At the 11th Para Games, which ended on August 6, he gained double titles in the discus and javelin throws, and a silver in the shot put.
"My result in shot put could be better if my shoulder was not hurt. But it is okay. I feel good with these medals. I believe my family is proud of me too," said Nguyên, who will welcome his third child this December.
The Para Games was over. It means that he could have little relaxation time and bonuses from his medals to organise his dream wedding with his wife.
"As an athlete, I could only visit home on Saturday. My wife has to take care of everything for the family. When we got married, we had just signed the Marriage Certificate but had not had a party because, at that time, we were too poor for such an event," said Nguyên, whose family is still living in a rented house.
"A wedding is what we have planned for a long time. And if possible, I will try harder to give my family a real home."
|Trần Văn Nguyên and his wife hope to organise a dream wedding they have wanted for a long time. Photo courtesy of Trần Văn Nguyên|
And he will be focused on practising quickly after that because the next Para Games will be within 10 months. After that, the Asian Games will be coming and then the Paralympics.
"I will do my best at my first Paralympics. It will be the biggest milestone in my career," he said. VNS