|Huỳnh Ngọc Phụng with his Para Games powerlifting gold medal in the men's 54kg on August 6 in Solo, Indonesia. — Photo from Huỳnh Ngọc Phụng facebook|
HÀ NỘI — Huỳnh Ngọc Phụng's life could have taken a completely different path. Although paralysed from birth, he still grew up in a loving, albeit poor family.
He managed to get his high-school diploma despite facing many challenges in life.
Six years ago, he joined an association for disabled people in Biên Hòa City, Đồng Nai Province, where he lives and there his life changed for ever.
Phụng was introduced to powerlifting and the then 16-year-old took to the sport like a duck to water. He has never looked back.
"As a child, I felt sorry for myself because I was more disadvantaged than my friends," Phụng told Việt Nam News.
"But actually, I knew that I was happier than many kids because I had family with parents.
"I always pushed myself to learn hard. Because my parents were poor and I was disabled, I had to try harder than others."
After joining the local People with Disabilities Association and taking up powerlifting, he was further inspired by Lê Văn Công, the country's medal-winning athlete.
Now the two are teammates.
Phụng said: "Two years after I started training, I saw a clip of famous Lê Văn Công who won Paralympic gold in Rio and I set my target of becoming an athlete like him.
"Honestly, the decision and powerlifting made my whole life more positively."
|Huỳnh Ngọc Phụng (left) poses with his senior teammates Lê Văn Công (centre) and Nguyễn Bình An (right) and their coach at the 11th Para Games in Solo, Indonesia. — Photo from Huỳnh Ngọc Phụng facebook|
Phụng's life both inside and outside the gym has vastly improved. He has become stronger, faster and healthier.
But more importantly, he now has a true purpose in life.
"From a timid and shy boy, gradually, I became more open, confident and sociable," said Phụng.
"My living conditions are better as I have salary and bonuses so I can help support my family. I feel I am a useful person."
Phụng's hard work and dedication has paid off. He is now a medal winner himself on the world stage.
"This sport requires strength, power, coordination and dedication to training," he said.
"Athletes must take care of their health, nutrition regime and suitable training exercises.
"Doing powerlifting is difficult to normal people; it is extremely tough for people with paralysed legs like me. We need someone by my side to support us when practising because we can't prepare equipment, lift weights to the bar, and change weights."
Phụng focused on practising and his result was improved quickly and he was picked to take part in the 2022 National Powerlifting Championship in Thái Nguyên Province.
His bronze medal was enough to make him national team member for the first time and took part in the 11th ASEAN Para Games in early August in Indonesia.
Phụng competed in the men's 54kg in which his senior teammate Nguyễn Bình An was the defending champion and record holder.
The rookie did not set any target in his first Games but still did an amazing job.
While An was still excelled with best lift of 168kg to defend his title, Phụng passed all other medal favourites to finish second with a 140kg lift.
An was unfortunately injured in his next lift of 182kg as he wanted to set a new record.
|Huỳnh Ngọc Phụng competes in the 11th Para Games in early August in Indonesia. He won one gold and one silver medal in the men's 54kg class. — Photo apg2022.com|
Phụng took the rare chance and won a gold medal in a total category, which was a combination of three attempts, with a result of 396kg.
"Not only me but also my coaches couldn’t believe it," said Phụng. "They predicted my best was a bronze, none thought about a gold."
Phụng said he took part in a range of events locally but it was totally different featuring in a tournament abroad, especially it was the first time.
He said: "I went to Indonesia with an open mind. As I was fresh to the competition, I did not expect a high result but instead just to collect experiences for the next time, although I did dare to dream a little.
"The gold made me really happy and proud. It pushed me up and gave me more energy and confidence to pursue my chosen sport, my passion."
As the next Para Games is within nine months, Phụng is training hard to improve his performance.
"My plan is to push my limit further so that I can reach better results. It will help me maintain my place in the national team and compete internationally. I want to take part in continental and world tournaments," Phụng said.
"Of course, I know it will be a long road to go." — VNS