|Nguyễn Hữu Kim Sơn. — Photo baomoi.com
At the age of 15, HCM City’s native swimmer Nguyễn Hữu Kim Sơn won an individual medley gold at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Malaysia this year, setting a new Games record. He also won 14 gold medals on his own to help Việt Nam top the medal tally at the recent Southeast Asian (SEA) Age Group Swimming Championships in Brunei. He tells Thanh Nga that his stupendous feats thus far have whetted his appetite for doing even better.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about your achievements gained in the SEA Games and the SEA Age Group Swimming Championship?
When I triumphed at the SEA Games this year in the men’s 400m medley with a time of 4:22.12 and broke the Games record of 4:23.20 held by Ratapong Sirisanont of Thailand since 2003, I was very happy since I made it in the first attempt taking part in the biggest regional sports tournament. I thanked my mentors, especially coach Đặng Anh Tuấn who always stays close to me at each meal and sleep to help me have the best form for the event. My teammates, especially Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên and Lê Nguyễn Paul instructed me a lot.
At the Age Group swimming event, I bagged nine golds in individual categories and five golds in relay events in the boys’ 14 to 15 category. During the event, I also attained four A standards to take part in the Youth Olympics in Argentina next year in the 200m and 400m freestyle, 200m medley and 200m butterfly. However, I still made errors in the other categories so I only took two more silver medals. I will train hard to participate in many categories in one event but my results are still good.
Inner Sanctum: Do you feel any pressure in tournaments?
Yes, of course. I was afraid that I would not compete well as I am rather young and I am nearly the shortest among all my rivals. I am 1.71m tall and weigh 63kg. However whenever I am nervous, coach Tuấn understands. He encourages me a lot and I feel more comfortable.
Inner Sanctum: How did you feel when coach Tuấn commented that you and Viên, Việt Nam’s No 1 swimmer, are rarities among swimmers?
When I heard that, I was very happy. It is a big driving force for me to strive harder in the next challenges.
As for me or any other Vietnamese swimmers, Viên is a model. Fortunately, I have several facets that match her.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell why you chose swimming as a career?
When I was in class 1, my maternal grandfather urged me to learn swimming to be strong and safe. Since then, I love it and pursue it until now.
Inner Sanctum: What is your training schedule? Does it affect your time to school?
Everyday, I get up at 6.15am and then train with my teammates until 10am. I am in school from 1.30pm to 4.30pm, then I return to practice until 8pm. I only have time for dinner and some rest for about one and a half hours. At 9.30pm, I am in bed.
Inner Sanctum: You are very young but you have to spend about seven hours per day to train. Are you tired?
No, I am not tired. I love training and competing. These will help me hone my skills and gain experience for the big tournaments. At the same time, it will help me to develop myself in terms of self-awareness and self-reliance.
Inner Sanctum: What about your daily nutrition?
At present, I follow the regulations of the Việt Nam national swimming team. Besides, my coach also asks my parents to buy more restoratives for me. I am very happy to have the support from coach Tuấn and my family.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us a little about your family?
Besides coaches, teachers and friends, my family always follows my career. My mother often encourages me when I don’t train well. My father works in the entertainment industry in HCM City. He is very busy but he can stop all his work to accompany me to the important competitions. He is ready to buy anything which is good for me in training and competition.
I could not forget the moment at the Games in Malaysia. When I finished my competition, my father ran from the stands to hug me, crying out “I am too happy”.
Inner Sanctum: Who are your idols?
They are Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, American Chase Tyler Kalisz and Australian Mack Horton. Park and Horton are Asian swimmers but they still won Olympic gold medals, while Kalisz erased Micheal Phelps’ 2007 world championship record in the 400m individual medley at this year’s FINA World Swimming Championships held in Budapest, Hungary.
Inner Sanctum: Do you have any advice for young swimmers?
I don’t dare advise them. I think that they should learn swimming bravely. Firstly, it is for safety and strength and maybe then they find the passion.
Inner Sanctum: What is your dream?
My wish is to practise with star swimmer Viên and coach Tuấn, who is training Viên in the United States. I want him to continue teaching me so that I can compete and gain medals in bigger tournaments. — VNS