Viet Nam News
Khiếu Thanh Hà
HÀ NỘI — She jumped into the pool. She swam fast. She reached the finish line. And she conquered!
Vi Thị Hằng finally achieved her dream win at the ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia.
Hằng won gold medal in the women’s 100m S7 freestyle event with a time of 1min 23.99sec, with a gap of nearly 23sec with her nearest rival Hatsady Boulaphane of Laos.
Hằng not only won the title, but she also set a new record at the Games.
“Looking at the results board, I first thought the clock was out of order. Later, when I realised it was a new record, I felt an outpouring of emotion. What a great moment,” Hằng said.
It is the first time the 27-year-old has reached the top of the podium in the three times she has participated at the regional biennial tournament for people with disabilities.
“I am really surprised with this gold because my rivals were strong and I swam this event at the last two Games but could only earn silver and bronze. I just tried to swim as fast as possible. I also did not think I could finish with such a good result because my best time during practice was 1.26min,” she said.
“Anyway, it is a really nice moment after more than five years of hard training.”
It was an even more memorable occasion for the girl from Đắk Nông Province as she pocketed her second gold two days later, finishing first in the BS6 100m breaststroke event with a time of 2:04.15.
“I am really happy as I sang our national anthem for the second time here in Malaysia. It is great to see the results of what my coaches and I have been working towards for months. I felt a little regret for not reaching my best time of 1:58.00, which I achieved at this year’s national championship, because I was not really confident against Indonesian Riyanti,” Hằng told Việt Nam News.
Unfortunately, Hằng could not complete her hat-trick, winning a silver in the SB6 50m freestyle after coming second behind teammate Trịnh Thị Bích Như.
Vi Thị Hằng swims in the ASEAN Para Games. She wins two golds, one silver and one record. — Photo courtesy of Tấn Phúc
It is a wonderful time for Hằng who has struggled a lot in the past.
Born in 1990 in the Central Highland province of Đắk Nông, Hằng grew up without any disability until the age of three. She then developed high fever, which led to her legs becoming paralysed.
Despite many difficulties Hằng completed 12 academic school years and joined an IT programming course at the HCM City Information Technology College.
During that time, Hằng received strong support from her foster-father Trần Hoàng Minh, a sponsor who also took care of other people with disabilities such as Hằng.
“I got into swimming by chance. My foster-father wanted me and others to practice sports to improve our physique. I first thought ‘okay, it’s good to be healthy,’ and then I started swimming.
I never thought of taking part in competitions because I am only 1.50m,” Hằng said.
At the age of 22, however, this changed. Hằng started swimming better than she had expected. The same year, she was one of HCM City’s athletes at the National Sports Games for People with Disabilities and brought home five gold medals.
Since then she has won medals every year.
Being successful at the local tournament, however, did not help her win gold medals at the Para Games.
She was selected to compete at the 2013 Para Games in Myanmar and secured a bronze medal. Two years later, she did a better job with three silvers. The gold, though, at the time, still remained far away from Hằng’s reach.
Returning home from the tournaments, Hằng trains hard even as she earns her daily living by sewing clothes.
Using a wheelchair, Hằng goes out to get clothing material for herself and other people with disabilities.
“Many of them cannot move. I am luckier than them because I can go around in a wheelchair. I can help them have a better life,” Hằng said, who also used her own money to buy sewing machines and instructs others to learn the trade.
She is currently studying to become a fashion designer.
“There are many reasons that I chose this line of work although I am an IT engineer. The most important thing is that I can create jobs for other friends like me, while my background helps me a lot in designing,” Hằng who decided to quit her previous job to focus on swimming, said.
“Soon after graduating from college, I found clerical work at a small office because I could not find a suitable job related to what I had studied. After two years, when I had to make a choice between that job and sport, I chose swimming, which is my passion,” Hằng recalled.
She spends half her day swimming and the remainder is used for sewing and, lately, designing activities.
“I want to have my own fashion brand and a small workshop where I can make things of my own,” she said.
Winning the first gold for Việt Nam at the Kuala Lumpur tournament, Hằng received a "hot" bonus of VNĐ120 million (US$5,400) from sponsors, in addition to bonuses for two golds and one silver from the government.
She said half the cash will be used to buy a new computer, which will be useful in designing and learning English.
The remaining money will be for fixing and improving the sewing machines so that they are more productive in the future.
“It is great that I contribute to Việt Nam’s achievements at this Para Games and then can also help other people like me,” she said. — VNS