Coach Nguyễn Như Cường and Nguyễn Thị Tâm seen at the send-off ceremony held in Hà Nội for the sports delegation of Việt Nam to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Như Cường
By Thanh Nga
Boxing coach Nguyễn Như Cường is very happy that his dream of having Hà Nội female boxers win places in the Olympics has come true.
Cường is head of Hà Nội women’s boxing and head coach of the Vietnamese women’s boxing team. He has helped Hà Nội’s female boxers reach new milestones in Vietnamese boxing such as winning the first Asian championship.
With tireless efforts, and under the guidance of Cường, boxer Nguyễn Thị Tâm of Hà Nội has won the right to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the women’s under 51kg category. This is the first time a female Vietnamese boxer has won a place at the Olympics.
“I am very happy that Tâm can compete in the Olympics. It is the wish and the aspiration of all athletes and their coaches,” he said.
Cường also noted that this could not have been achieved without the support of sports leaders from the National Sports Administration, National Sports Training Centre as well as the Hà Nội Department of Culture and Sports.
“It is rare that Vietnamese boxing has such a skilled female boxer," Cường said.
Coach Nguyễn Như Cường and Nguyễn Thị Tâm seen in the ASIAD 2018. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Như Cường
When Cường was still competing for the Hà Nội team, he was the top boxer in the country in the men's 57kg, 60kg, and 64kg categories and participated in the Asian Games (ASIAD) in 1990.
In 2004, Cường was assigned the task of building the Hà Nội women's boxing team. This was part of the strategy of Hà Nội sports to find opportunities for women's boxing so that they could attend the SEA Games, ASIAD and the Olympics.
According to Cường, it was a difficult journey. The hardest part was trying to convince families to let their children participate. He was often successful but many times he was not. Parents didn’t want their girls to practice a sport they considered dangerous. In addition, many boxers, who were in good form, suddenly gave up to get married.
That said, Hà Nội women's boxing quickly rose to become the best in the country. Cường was often selected as the head coach of the Vietnamese national women's boxing team and in charge of women's boxing in the capital.
Over nearly 20 years, Cường and his boxers have continuously achieved success in the international arena. This started with Hà Thị Linh's 2013 SEA Games gold medal, followed by Nguyễn Thị Yến’s 2015 SEA Games gold medal, and a 2019 SEA Games gold medal for Tâm.
Tâm also became the first Vietnamese boxer to win the Asian championship, taking out the title in 2017. Nguyễn Thị Hương also brought home bronze in the 2019 Women's World Boxing Championships in Russia, in the women's 81kg weight category. All were trained under coach Cường.
Coach Nguyễn Như Cường and Nguyễn Thị Tâm at a meeting for athletes and coaches having good results in the SEA Games 30. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Như Cường
In 2014, he invited expert Tawan Mungphingklang (who led the Thai women's boxing team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics) to train Hanoian boxers and the national team. Since then, the achievements of Hà Nội’s boxers, as well as the Vietnamese team more generally, have become more and more consistent.
“My work is difficult because I have to divide my time between both the national women's boxing team and the Hà Nội team although both practice at the Hà Nội Sports Competition and Training Centre, which is very convenient,” said Cường.
Miracle of Vietnamese women's boxing
When Tâm first joined the Hà Nội team, she looked thin and small. In the early days of practice, she felt excited. But when she began training technical skills, she was so scared that the Thái Bình province-native asked to return home. She was afraid of pain. Fortunately, at the time, Cường and the coaching staff encouraged her to overcome her fear.
With perseverance, after 12 years of following martial arts, Tâm has a remarkable collection of medals. She bagged the bronze medal of ASIAD in 2018 and the gold medal in the ASIAN Women's Boxing Champion 2017. She is also the defending champion of the 30th SEA Games.
In the above achievements, it is worth noting the gold medal at the 2017 Asian Boxing Championships held in HCM City. In the final match, Tâm defeated arch-rival Pang Choi-mi of North Korea to win the historic gold medal in the 51kg category. In this tournament, there were five Vietnamese female boxers that reached the final, but only one winner. Until now, it is still considered, by many, as the most honourable medal in the continental event that a Vietnamese female boxer has achieved.
With an ideal physique at 1.68 metres tall, and with her southpaw fighting style, lightning arms, and nimble feet, Tâm is currently Việt Nam's top female boxer. In addition, the Hà Nội female boxer does not only have a unique ability to attack but also to defend. She always finds the weaknesses of her opponent to launch very precise attacks.
Coach Nguyễn Như Cường, boxer Nguyễn Thị Tâm and expert Tawan Mungphingklang. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thị Tâm
Boxing expert Thai Mungphingklang is in awe of the talent of the boxer born in 1994.
“Tâm has the advantage of height, good physical strength, long arm length, and extremely fast reflexes, giving her the ability to launch a continuous attack to force her opponent to fall into a passive position. Martial artists often call it southpaw,” he said.
However, in order to achieve results, Tâm had to work hard to overcome herself as well as overcome prejudices and barriers.
Boxing, Tâm says, requires a lot of physical strength and the ability to withstand multiple, brutal blows. She often gets injured and bruises her face, arms, and legs.
Nguyễn Thị Tâm (in red) takes advantage of every hour and minute of practice before entering the biggest sports competition in the world that will start on July 23. — Photo courtesy of Nguyễn ThịTâm
Along with training hard, Tâm also has the good fortune of being trained as part of the Hà Nội team and has received a sizable investment to fulfill her Olympics goal.
Tâm is taking advantage of every hour of every day to practice before entering the biggest sports competition in the world that will start on July 23. VNS