|Vũ Tiến Mạnh (right) trains with his guide at the Hàng Đẫy Stadium. Mạnh is one of nearly 120 Vietnamese athletes competing at the 12th ASEAN Para Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo courtesy of Vũ Tiến Mạnh|
Tethered by a string and trust, Vũ Tiến Mạnh and his guide have taken part in many different marathon tournaments. They are well-known in the running community although they are still to finish a major race on top of the podium.
Mạnh is a blind marathoner who always receives strong support from both runners and supporters throughout his races. He will represent Việt Nam at the Cambodian 12th ASEAN Para Games.
"It is my honour and pride to make my debut at the regional sports meet. I will try my best with 100 per cent of my ability to get the highest result," Mạnh told Việt Nam News.
Born in 2000 in Phù Ninh District of Phú Thọ Province, Mạnh suffered from congenital nystagmus which often is associated with other ocular conditions that totally impaired his visual acuity.
Being blind did not prevent the little boy from playing chase-and-catch games. Mạnh could not see his friends so he had to use other senses to feel and hear their sounds to catch them.
"In 2016 I moved to Hà Nội for high school where I was introduced to the city's sports centre for people with disabilities. My sporting life started from that moment," said Mạnh.
Training activities were tough enough for sighted athletes, but for the blind, it was much more difficult. Coaches must communicate verbally and guide them by hand. These special athletes had to listen, imagine and act.
They also learned to partner with a sighted guide who matched them step by step, giving them some feedback about what's happening in a race. Together, they burst from the starting blocks, charging side-by-side down the track.
After years of hard work, he has earned a number of medals at national junior and senior tournaments in the 800m and 1,500m events.
|Vũ Tiến Mạnh (right) is aiming for a podium finish in his first regional sports meet for people with disabilities. — Photo courtesy of Vũ Tiến Mạnh|
In the latest event of the National Athletics for People with Disabilities Championship in HCM City last month, Mạnh won two golds and one silver which helped him to secure a slot in the national team for the 12th Para Games in Phnom Penh.
"I set a target of a gold medal for myself. I know it is very difficult but if I don't dare to dream, I can never achieve it," said Mạnh.
"I feel a little nervous as it will be my first time here. I also have no idea about my rivals. But whoever they are I will have to try my best, for the country and for me."
Phạm Bình Linh who was Mạnh's guide and part-time coach, said: "Mạnh is a man of strong mind. His great efforts in training make me believe that he can do better than sighted people.
"Mạnh faced a short time to train for the Para Games so he would meet with little challenges to make his gold dream come true but I believe that silver will be within his reach. Anyway, nothing is impossible, if he is lucky he will top the podium."
Running, one of the most popular and practised sports worldwide has bloomed in Việt Nam in recent years.
People running for health and for fun too. Many of them set their sights on becoming a marathon runner. Mạnh also shares that idea.
He made his debut at the Eco Park Marathon in 2021 where he competed in the half marathon category.
During his 21km journey, Mạnh and his guide were connected at the wrist by a tether, which helped the runner stay aligned in his route.
|Vũ Tiến Mạnh (51399) compete in the first Vietnam International Half Marathon tournament in January in Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Vietnam International Half Marathon|
"When I crossed the finish line I was totally exhausted. I was dizzy and could not hear people cheering. I just knew that I finished the race and I won it myself," said Mạnh about his first long-distance run.
"I nearly collapsed but the feeling of surpassing myself was wonderful."
Since then, he has run in many tournaments and really enjoyed every moment.
He added: "I saw nothing but imagined everything with my guide's help. I felt the road that I run on, the cool air with fresh wind, the scent of flowers and I heard runners' rapid breathing and their non-stop footsteps. Those sounds motivated me to not give up and successfully finished."
Taking in these tournaments was also a way that Mạnh encouraged people with disabilities to take part in sports. He hopes that disabled people would receive more support from the government and community to get better in life and their potential careers. VNS