Viet Nam News
With his handicapped legs, disabled swimmer Nguyễn Thành Trung, 36, has won more than 40 medals in international and domestic events. He has proved that nothing is impossible to make dream come true. Thanh Nga talks to him.
Inner Sanctum: You won a gold medal for Việt Nam at the Asian Para Games 2018 in Indonesia and were named a “Hero of Change” by the Hero Project in Việt Nam under the “Start Your Impossible” campaign organised by Toyota Motor Việt Nam last month. How do you feel?
I was very happy to win another gold medal at the Asian tournament and honoured to be selected as a “Hero of Change”. It will give me the motivation to live a better life and do even better at future competitions.
Inner Sanctum: How many medals have you won during your career?
I have won more than 40 medals at international and domestic events, three of which were gold at the ASEAN Para Games in 2011. I ranked eighth in the Paralympics Games in London in 2012 in the 100m SB4 breaststroke. At the World Championships in 2015, I finished fifth in the 100m SB4 breaststroke.
Inner Sanctum: What is your proudest achievement?
My best result was at the Asian Para Games this year. I clinched first place in the men’s 100m breaststroke final after clocking a time of 01:48.91, smashing my previous record of 01:50.91 set at the Games in Incheon in 2014.
Inner Sanctum: Before you started swimming, you were a fisherman?
Yes, I fished for six years. My family was poor so I had to help them make a living from the age of 15 in my native province of Cần Thơ. For normal people, fishing is a difficult job. For me, it is even harder.
Sometimes, I capsized in stormy conditions. If I hadn’t been able to swim I could have drowned.
The job only brought me VNĐ100,000-200,000 (US$4.3-8.7) per day.
Disabled swimmer Nguyễn Thành Trung and his AAT dancing group. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thành Trung
Inner Sanctum: I know that you can sing and dance very well. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
My parents told me that fishing was too difficult for me and advised me to give it up. Then I joined a local singing and hip-hop dance group.
I can earn money for my family by singing at weddings. I think that maybe thanks to my strong voice and dancing skills, I am often invited to weddings.
Inner Sanctum: Was it difficult learning how to dance?
I have been practising for more than a year. I train both night and day to perfect difficult moves. Doing a handstand is the most difficult. I cut my head several times.
Now, I am a key member of the famous AAT dance group in Cần Thơ Province. My team often performs in schools, bars and cafes from Mekong Delta provinces to central and northern provinces.
Inner Sanctum: Have you won any awards from dancing?
I won a dance contest for Mekong Delta provinces in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, I also finished third at a national event.
Inner Sanctum: When did you become a professional swimmer?
I began swimming when I was small but I only began to compete at national tournaments in 2011.
When I was taking part in a dance contest in 2010 in Huế, I met Việt Nam’s No 1 disabled swimmer Võ Thanh Tùng by chance. He introduced me to Đổng Quốc Cường, coach of the HCM City team and national team.
Six months later, I took part in the National Sport Games for the disabled an won gold in the 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 50m backstroke.
Nguyễn Thành Trung seen in the Asian Para Games 2018. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thành Trung
Inner Sanctum: What disadvantages do you face training and competing?
For disabled people, when the weather changes the body often aches. So to become an athlete and pursue sports, I had to try very hard.
Sometimes, to prepare for a big event, I have to undergo intensive training with only my hands.
Inner Sanctum: I know most disabled athletes often start training one or two months before an event. How about you?
I often train and compete all year.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell me about your childhood?
I was paralysed in both legs after a malignant fever when I was three years old. At that time, my family was very poor so my parents sometimes asked neighbours to take care of me.
After that, I begged my relatives and friends to take me to school. However, I gave up at grade 9 and became a fisherman.
Inner Sanctum: Are you married?
Yes, I got married this year and my wife is pregnant.
Inner Sanctum: What are your dreams?
I have many dreams. But most of all, I always hope to live happily with my family. I also want to do more charity work to help people live better lives.
Inner Sanctum: What are your plans for the future?
I will try my best at upcoming great tournaments including the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. I have earned places to compete in the 100m breaststroke, 50m backstroke and 200m medley. — VNS