by Vu Lan Dung
For the past nine years in any sort of weather, 31-year-old disabled athlete Nguyen Van Phuc attends Khuc Hao Sports Centre to practise weightlifting.
|Training: Athlete Nguyen Van Phuc lifts dumb-bells in preparation for the Paralympic Games in London. — VNS Photo Lan Dung
His labour has paid off in dozens of medals and a chance to add a Paralympic medal at his first try.
Weightlifting, known as powerlifting in the Paralympics as it includes athletes with cerebral palsy and spinal injuries, lower-limb amputees and other disabilities.
Phuc will represent Viet Nam to compete in the men's 48kg powerlifting event at the Games, which will be held from August 29 to September 9 in London.
He reached Paralympic Standard with a best lift of 147kg after three attempts at the Malaysia Open in Kuala Lumpur in February.
At the time, he was suffering from a shoulder injury – and still does unless he trains carefully under coach Nguyen Thi Thinh. Every day, he does dumb-bell exercises and body push-ups to improve his strength.
"My best result is about 152kg. But the result in practice is completely different from that in competition. I will try to achieve my goal of 160kg in the Paralympics," Phuc said before leaving for Iceland to attend a training course.
In recent days, he has been on a diet to keep his weight under 48kg. He is required to eat lean meat and take regular steam baths.
According to coach Thinh, Phuc will face tough rivals from Russia, Jordan and Nigeria at the Games. "Levels of athletes in the Games are high, so it's difficult to predict if Phuc can progress further. Due to his shoulder pain, he trains and has treatment at the same time," Thinh said. "I think that the most important thing to him is overcoming himself."
Poliomyelitis atrophied Phuc's legs when he was only 18 months' old. While at university, he tried practising wheelchair racing but then became interested in weightlifting.
Phuc heard about Khuc Hao, the only centre for people with disabilities in Ha Noi, after watching a programme on TV. Since 2003, he has gone there every morning to practise.
"After finishing practice, I cycle to the National Economics University. I had to quit practising for one term because I was so busy studying," he said.
Coach Thinh has instructed Phuc from the time he became acquainted with weightlifting. She said that Phuc started later than others but he was hard-working.
"Phuc's strong point is his big interest. He has spent a lot of time practising with persistence. This is a difficult sport. Only people, who have a crush on it and much perseverance, can succeed."
Phuc flew to HCM City to compete at the national sports tournament for disabled athletes. He won a gold medal in his first competition.
He has now won a total of eight medals in this annual national tourney as well as one silver and one bronze at the 2009 and 2011 ASEAN Para Games.
Phuc said his success partly comes from family support. His mother, Duong Thi Dung, didn't know anything about his practice until he told her he was competing in HCM City. Phuc even hid information about his trip to London and she only found out when Thinh told her.
"Practising a sport helps him be stronger," she said. "He lacks many things compared to other people. Therefore, I always support him doing what he likes," Dung said.
At present, Phuc and his team-mates are undergoing 15 days of training in London before moving to the Paralympic village on August 24. He will take part in the men's 48kg event on August 30. — VNS