|Weightlifter Khổng Mỹ Phượng celebrates after a successful attempt during her competition at the 31st SEA Games in May in Hà Nội. VNA/VNS Photos|
At the age of 23, Khổng Mỹ Phượng has been practising weightlifting for more than a decade, already seen many ups and downs in the sport, but never thought of giving up. It is not simply winning medals that is her final target, but trying to go beyond her limits.
The weightlifter has been honoured with the title 'outstanding citizen of HCM City' and is aiming for her first Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medal in Cambodia in May.
Road to podium
Phượng was a strong sporting talent from the beginning and took part in athletics, basketball and handball at secondary school.
She was selected to be trained in weightlifting at the age of just 11, deciding to follow the sport that was new to her at the time.
"I kept it secret from my family. I said I was hanging out with my friends, but in fact I was at the training centre for weightlifting," Phượng said. "My mum 'treated' me to a good whipping of my bum for hanging out too much. So I quit."
After several weeks of absence, coaches came to persuade her parents. Her mother, who first strongly objected to Phượng becoming an athlete, eventually agreed and drove her to the centre every day.
"Actually, a salary of VNĐ1.5 million per month for a young athlete together with several other allowances was a remarkable amount of money that I could partly support my family with. It was the main reason that I decided to do weightlifting," said Phượng.
"The pressure is definitely on in all sports. Losses and injuries can make me tired and depressed. But my love for weightlifting is too great. The more I practise, the more I love it. I have found that weightlifting is my true passion. It pushes me to do a better job, strengthens my mind and lifts my spirit."
In her first tournament at the National Youth Weightlifting Championship in 2013, Phượng secured one gold and two silvers
|Weightlifter Khổng Mỹ Phượng sets a record at the 31st SEA Games' women's 45kg class.|
At the age of 15, she competed internationally and won one gold and one silver at the 2015 International Weightlifting Federation Youth World Championships in Lima, Peru.
It was the best result of Việt Nam at a world tournament for young athletes. 2019 was one of the most successful years for Phượng as she won gold at the Asian Youth Championship and a bronze in the Asian championship before taking a World Cup title.
She not only defended it in 2020, but also took a further silver and one bronze, becoming the top athlete of Việt Nam at the Rome World Cup. Later, she was the only sport person voted as an 'outstanding citizens of HCM City' in 2020.
"It was a big honour that reminded me about my duty and responsibility. I promised to keep working hard to get more titles," said Phượng, a student at the HCM City University of Physical Education and Sports.
And she made it. Two years later, Phượng struggled through the pandemic, but secured two golds and one silver at the Asian Weightlifting Championship.
SEA Games comeback
"My idol is veteran Vương Thị Huyền. She inspires me with her strong will and diligence. I have learnt a lot from her, even though also my biggest rival in local competition," said Phượng.
Before the 31st Games in Hà Nội last May, Phượng made an impressive victory as she beat Huyền, the SEA Games defending champion and Olympic qualifier, in the National Weightlifting Championship to secure her slot in the Việt Nam SEA Games Team.
However, on her SEA Games debut Phượng met strong rivals, and could only earn a silver, although she set a new personal record in the 45kg category.
|Khổng Mỹ Phượng secures a silver in her first time taking part in the regional SEA Games in 2022. She expects to top the podium this May in Cambodia.|
"I was a little nervous when facing my Thai rival, who is world-class. I got my personal best result, but she was a strong lifter. I regretted that I could not take gold for Việt Nam. But it was a good lesson for me. I believe that in the next meet I will be the winner," said Phượng.
"My dream is to win a SEA Games title and participate in at least one Olympics. This year, I will spend all my ability practising for the highest place at the 32nd Games. I will work with 200 per cent of my strength and fight like a warrior to take home victory." VNS