|Vũ Thị Hằng of Việt Nam (left) defeats North Korean So Sim-Hyang in an Olympics’ qualification round in March in Kazakhstan. — Photo unitedworldwrestling.org|
HÀ NỘI — Taking up wrestling by chance, Vũ Thị Hằng has stuck to the sport meant for men all her life and has made her name at the Rio Olympics this summer.
Born in a poor family in Tân Yên District, Bắc Giang Province, Hằng is the only child who loves and follows sport since she was a little girl.
She was a member of her school basketball, volleyball and traditional martial arts clubs.
However, she never thought of taking up wrestling until she was chosen by a village coach Dương Văn Sản, a former wrestler, to take part in his club in the Dinh Village in Ngọc Châu Commune in 2007 when she was 15.
“I was looked agile and flexible so he (coach Sản) asked me to test my skills at his club. Looking at the wrestlers practicing I found quite a few things interesting and decided to join,” Hằng said.
Since then the girl has cycled 10km every day from her house to the club to sharpen her technique and returned home in pain.
“I was impressed with her hard work, good listening skills and inquiring mind, which helped her advance speedily,” coach Sản said. “She is a mirror to the junior wrestlers of the club.”
“I was afraid that my parents would be worried and would stop me so I lied to them, telling them that I was taking part in extra classes. Only when I began training at the Hà Nội’s Elite Athletes Training Centre, did they know,” Hằng said.
Coach Đới Đăng Hỷ, on one of his tours to scout for athletes in Tân Yên District, discovered Hằng. The former Southeast Asian Games champion, then the national team head coach, immediately signed a contract with Hằng and made her join the Hà Nội Team.
The 16-year-old girl from the rural area encountered a lot of difficulties initially at the centre.
She was too shy to talk with anybody for several months. The change strongly affected her in both, lifestyle and training activities. She was even fined often because of slowness.
But talent is still talent. Hằng may have been slow but she just needed two years to become a member of the national team in 2010.
Under a professional environment with qualified coaches and experts, Hằng is like a fish in water. Her techniques have approved while her weak points have been fixed.
“She is a typical athlete, and a professional wrestler with good skills and high responsibility. We are lucky to have her in our team,” coach Hỷ said.
After nearly eight years in wrestling Hằng has a collection of medals. She has had no worthy rival in the 48kg category in the national championship since 2013 after winning numerous titles in the youth tournaments. She took a silver at the Asian Youth Wrestling Championship and a gold at the 27th SEA Games in 2013. Earlier, she earned a silver at the World Youth Wrestling Championship.
And March 20 was a history day in her calendar when Hằng successfully won her berth in the Rio Olympics.
It was a qualification event in Kazakhstan and Hằng defeated North Korean So Sym Hyang 3-2 in the semi-final round to enter the final. Being one of two finalists of the class meant that she officially qualified for the Games, globally the most prestigious sports festival organised every four years.
“I want to share my happiness with my family, friends and fans who have strongly supported me and created the best conditions for me in these wins,” Hằng said after her win.
“I dreamt of being a martial artist when I was young, but my life changed when I became a part of the wrestling club. And now I am very pleased with my slot in Brazil,” she said.
She also made her parents and former coach proud.
“She has worked hard in eight years, living far from home without the care of her parents. It is great that she has made it,” her father Vũ Văn Tuyến said.
“It is sudden happiness that she brought to us. Her success will prove to be a strong push for the wrestling movement in our district and province,” coach Sản said.
While enjoying her success Hằng knew that challenges were still ahead.
“Olympics is the biggest tournament, and all wrestlers here are very strong. It is my debut and I feel a little pressure. I have to work harder to prepare for the matches, but no matter how strong they are, I will wrestle with confidence,” Hằng said.
“People said that her ticket is a surprise but it is not. It was in our plan since the London Olympics. Hằng is speedy, enduring and clever. She will definitely grab more titles in the future,” coach Hỷ said.
Hằng will kick off her tournament on August 17 at the Carioca Arena 2. Her rival will be identified after the draw on the same day. — VNS