Pencak silat fighter enjoys golden year
Quang Thi Thu Nghia is a fighter who brings good luck to her team in competition.
She was the first athlete of Vietnam to begin her journey and won a gold medal in the World Pencak Silat Championship, which closed in Malaysia on July 31.
Following her, five other athletes pocketed titles while dozens of others secured silvers and bronzes. Vietnam placed third in the medal tally.
Earlier, Nghia began Vietnam's gold medal quest at the 31st SEA Games in May in Hanoi.
She completed her duty successfully. The lucky beginner's victory was a good sign for Vietnam, who topped the ranking with six golds, two silvers and five bronzes.
A switch in life
Nghia was born to a Thai ethnic minority family in 1999 in Chieng Pan Commune, Yen Chau District, in the mountainous province of Son La.
She discovered her sports potential at 14 when she was guided to practise high jump due to her height.
"It was when I was 14, and coaches asked me to join the track-and-field team. But after months of training, I did not show any progress. My result remained not as expected," Nghia said.
"Coaches then found that I could practise sports that needed physical strength, so when the pencak silat team recruited athletes, I switched and have been practising this martial art ever since."
"It seemed that it was a milestone of my life," said Nghia, who not only makes her family proud but is also the pride of Son La Province, where sports have not been widely accepted by locals, especially for those in ethnic groups.
It took a little time for her to integrate with the new environment, teammates and training programmes.
"I had to start from the beginning with new techniques and skills and exercises. But after about three months, I learnt the hard moves and gradually perfected my technique," she said.
Pains and injuries are common for many athletes. Nghia picked up some during her practice. It was painful and tiring, and several times she thought of giving up and returning home to do farming with her family.
"Luckily, I received strong support and encouragement from coaches, parents and friends. They gave me huge force to continue and strive harder," she said.
"My dad did not want me to practise sport because he worried it was tough for a girl. However, he is now my biggest fan. He rarely speaks out, but his gesture makes me understand that he is proud of me. He is a reason that pushes me on."
Two years later, Nghia became a member of the national youth team and moved to the national team in 2017.
Nghia proved herself a pencak silat talent when she won a gold medal in the women's U75kg category at the Asian championship in India in her international debut and a title from the World Championship in Singapore. Both in 2018.
In 2019, she defended her Asian title in China and grabbed a top podium at the World Beach Pencak Silat Championship in Thailand.
"We appreciated Nghia's contribution to provincial sport and pencak silat in particular," Le Hong Quan, deputy director of Son La's Centre for Sports Training and Competition, said. "She is our pride."
Nghia had not yet competed in the regional sports meet, the Southeast Asian Games. She was named for the 2021 edition, but unfortunately, it was delayed for almost six months due to the pandemic.
Despite being only a regional event, the SEA Games is considered one of the most important tournaments in Vietnam's competition system.
Nghia was nervous and excited to be part of Vietnam's contingent in Hanoi in May. Some weeks before the Games, a gold medal from the Southeast Asian Championship strengthened her confidence.
As the first host finalist to compete on the combat floor, she met no difficulties in sweeping away all her rivals to secure a berth in the final.
Malaysian Siti Rahmah Binti Mohamed Nasir was the last obstacle on her way to the top of the podium. Experienced Nasir created challenges for Nghia, but not enough to stop the Vietnamese fighter. Nghia won 39-32, and cried when she was announced as the champion.
"We had prepared well for the tournament, but my rivals did too. I had no idea how I would perform. The gold medal was a surprise for me, a big award for me, especially when I was winning on the home ground under the eyes of my family and neighbours," Nghia said.
"The medal is for all of them, my great supporters."
Two months after the 31st SEA Games, Nghia defended her world title well in Malaysia. She again defeated Nasir 60-35 in the final.
"Pressure is higher and higher every year because currently many countries have invested strongly to develop the martial art. Athletes are getting much better so each competition will be a big challenge. I have to practise hard and be focused all the time to make sure I am at my peak," she said.
Nghia will have a final major task this year when she will compete in the National Sports Games in November in Quang Ninh Province.
A gold medal will be a happy ending for the 23-year-old who believes that all efforts are being well rewarded.
Source: Vietnam News