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Hanoi women's boxing hopeful in the spotlight as Olympics draw closer

Boxing coach Nguyen Nhu Cuong is very happy that his dream of having Hanoi female boxers win places in the Olympics has come true.

Coach Nguyen Nhu Cuong and Nguyen Thi Tam seen at the send-off ceremony held in Hanoi for the sports delegation of Vietnam to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. — Photo courtesy of Nguyen Nhu Cuong

Cuong is head of Hanoi women’s boxing and head coach of the Vietnamese women’s boxing team. He has helped Hanoi’s female boxers reach new milestones in Vietnamese boxing such as winning the first Asian championship.

With tireless efforts, and under the guidance of Cuong, boxer Nguyen Thi Tam of Hanoi 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 Tam can compete in the Olympics. It is the wish and the aspiration of all athletes and their coaches,” he said.

Cuong 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 Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports.

“It is rare that Vietnamese boxing has such a skilled female boxer," Cuong said.

Coach Nguyen Nhu Cuong and Nguyen Thi Tam seen in the ASIAD 2018. — Photo courtesy of Nguyen Nhu Cuong

Unforgettable milestones

When Cuong was still competing for the Hanoi 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, Cuong was assigned the task of building the Hanoi women's boxing team. This was part of the strategy of Hanoi sports to find opportunities for women's boxing so that they could attend the SEA Games, ASIAD and the Olympics.

According to Cuong, 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, Hanoi women's boxing quickly rose to become the best in the country. Cuong 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, Cuong and his boxers have continuously achieved success in the international arena. This started with Ha Thi Linh's 2013 SEA Games gold medal, followed by Nguyen Thi Yen’s 2015 SEA Games gold medal, and a 2019 SEA Games gold medal for Tam.

Tam also became the first Vietnamese boxer to win the Asian championship, taking out the title in 2017. Nguyen Thi Huong 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 Cuong.

Coach Nguyen Nhu Cuong and Nguyen Thi Tam at a meeting for athletes and coaches having good results in the SEA Games 30. — Photo courtesy of Nguyen Nhu Cuong

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 Hanoi’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 Hanoi team although both practice at the Hanoi Sports Competition and Training Centre, which is very convenient,” said Cuong. 

Miracle of Vietnamese women's boxing

When Tam first joined the Hanoi 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 Thai Binh province-native asked to return home. She was afraid of pain. Fortunately, at the time, Cuong and the coaching staff encouraged her to overcome her fear.

With perseverance, after 12 years of following martial arts, Tam 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, Tam 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, Tam is currently Vietnam's top female boxer. In addition, the Hanoi 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 Nguyen Nhu Cuong, boxer Nguyen Thi Tam and expert Tawan Mungphingklang. — Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Tam

Boxing expert Thai Mungphingklang is in awe of the talent of the boxer born in 1994.

“Tam 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, Tam had to work hard to overcome herself as well as overcome prejudices and barriers.

Boxing, Tam 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.

Along with training hard, Tam also has the good fortune of being trained as part of the Hanoi team and has received a sizable investment to fulfill her Olympics goal.

Tam 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.

Source: Vietnam News

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