Endeavouring for national pride

Friday, 2016-02-05 09:47:30
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Dinh Phuong Thanh won the historic all-around gold medal for Vietnamese gymnastics at the 28th SEA Games in Singapore last year.
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NDO – For high-performance athletes, national pride is always the strongest emotion energising them to overcome difficulties and challenges and bring pride to the country. Sweat, tears and sometimes blood have been shed for that noble mission.

Silent efforts

Strong as he seems on the competition floor, male gymnast Dinh Phuong Thanh is timid and reserved in real life. Pointing at his shoulder, Thanh said he still felt a lot of pain and could not afford intense practice. Not long ago, Thanh brought that hurt shoulder to the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. The 20-year-old athlete has been suffering from this shoulder injury for over one year, however, he still bit the bullet to bring home the historic all-around gold medal for Vietnamese gymnastics at the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore. Earlier, Thanh also stunned everyone by scoring a bronze on the parallel bars at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, the Republic of Korea.

Behind the radiant face on the podium floor were the intense pains and nights of failing to swallow rice as a result of intensive training. Thanh has been leading such life for the past 15 years. He came to gymnastics at the age of five. As other peers remained children in the arms of their parents, Thanh had to leave his family for an eight-year training course in China. Talking about those days, he could not help getting emotional. Especially when he was sick, Thanh said he missed his parents a lot and only wished to soon return home. Most of his childhood was associated with training floors, rings, pommel horse and bars.

At the National Sports Training Centre, many boys and girls are also stepping on the same paths Thanh has been experiencing, including Pham Phuoc Hieu and Nguyen Vu Duc An, the two little but shapely and skillful kids. Hieu and An have also just undergone four years of training in China. Despite their young age, these two boys have collected a lot of achievements at national youth competitions and are looking towards realising their Olympic dreams in the future.

Happiness and bitterness

Half a year after winning the hard-fought gold medal at the 28th SEA Games, triple jump athlete Nguyen Van Hung still keeps in mind that moment of bursting into happiness. Hung came to athletics in late 2013, with his aptitude unveiled by trainer Nguyen Trong Ho after a school-level competition. Although being summoned to train with the national youth team with a lot of expectations, Hung’s future sports career also faced numerous threats due to injuries, ranging from a backache and knee pain to a muscle strain and, most seriously, a damaged heel, which was diagnosed to be chronic and led him to secure just one silver medal through the two SEA Games editions in 2009 and 2011.

Two months ahead of the 2013 SEA Games, Hung’s knee and groin muscle injuries came back and he was advised to abandon competition. However, ignoring doctors’ dissuasion, Hung was still determined to depart for Myanmar with a bandage around his knee. After the first four jumps, Hung remained in third place. He failed the fifth jump due to the heavy pain.

“At that moment, nobody believed I would do the last jump. But looking down to the national flag on the shirt, I suddenly regained full excitement,” Hung reminisced.

Hung stepped out and flied in the last jump, sweeping the gold medal and a SEA Games record with 16m67 to everyone’s surprise. The moment of bursting into happiness is still saved in his smart phone as the most memorable memory of his sports career.

“I hugged my trainers and wore the national flag running around the stadium without feeling any pain. However, a moment later when entering the doping testing room, I could not stand any longer and collapsed,” Hung said.

Sprinter Nguyen Thi Huyen struck three gold medals and broke two records at the 28th SEA Games.

While teammate Nguyen Van Hung experienced memorable moments in Myanmar, Nguyen Thi Huyen, who became a “golden girl” in the 400m race later on, had to shed tears in regrets for missing the 27th SEA Games. Numerous expectations turned to smoke as she suffered a thigh muscle injury right ahead of the competition. Huyen broke down and cried a lot because her training results had exceeded the gold medal of the previous Games. She did not even dare to follow news on performances of her teammates in the national athletics team. However, with a strong will and determination, Huyen overcame that dark moment to shine brightly at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, winning three gold medals, breaking two Games records and meeting two 2016 Olympic standards. “Making the regional podium for the first time, I was overwhelmed and tears naturally exuded,” Huyen shared.

As for Nguyen The Anh, a tanding (combat) wrestler, there remains many other objective factors, alongside injuries and form, affecting competitive performances. At his SEA Games debut in Laos six years ago, Vietnam’s wrestling team continuously suffered partial treatment from arbitrators and bitterly lost gold medals in many events. Confronted with that situation, The Anh made up his mind to sweep victory as quickly and clearly as possible. Clear-mindedness and strong determination helped Anh knock out his Indonesian opponent in the final and bring pride to the country. At last year’s SEA Games in Singapore, The Anh and teammates experienced that upset feeling again as the host country excluded wrestling from the competition programme. Their diligent training with huge sacrifices paid off with nothing other than being deprived of the opportunity to see the results in the long run.

Behind the medal

Sometimes, former track and field athlete Vu Bich Huong takes out and cossets the gold medal won at the 20th SEA Games in Chiang Mai, Thailand. From the image of “a black antelope” on the hurdles race, Huong now just wishes to walk as normal in order to take care of her youngest son who is sick. Huong’s husband died of an incurable disease, while she herself was seriously affected following a bad accident. The turbulence of life seemed to knock her down sometime; however, Huong still strives to overcome difficulties and function as a solid support for her eldest son, on whom she has been entrusting her desires to conquer athletics peaks.

The athlete life is not just a story about glories or titles. Many never reached their peaks but had to say goodbye to their sports career due to injuries. Some performed brightly on competition floors but had to taste numerous hardships on the other slope of their career. They were immersed in the hasty current of life, little mentioned or obliterated. What remains are just the fading medals – mementos from days of hard work and endeavouring for national pride.

MINH VAN