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70-year-old Vietnamese paraglider conquers Vietnam’s skies

70-year-old Vietnamese paraglider conquers Vietnam’s skies

Saturday, July 09, 2022, 15:24 GMT+7
70-year-old Vietnamese paraglider conquers Vietnam’s skies
Nguyen Huu Nam, or Old Nam, flies over Khau Pha Mountain in Yen Bai Province during a 2016 paragliding event in this supplied photo.

Nguyen Huu Nam, often referred to as ‘Old Nam’, is a member of the Vietwing Hanoi Paragliding Club. With over 15 years of experience in the sport, he is a household name in the country’s paragliding scene.

“As a child, I would look up at the sky and dream about flying like a bird and look down at my beautiful country,” said Nam.

“Once I learned how to glide safely with a guide, I began focusing on learning how to glide all by myself,” Nam continued as he ran a safety check on his belt, rope, helmet, and walkie-talkie.

With his rope properly aligned and an “OK” signal from the walkie-talkie, the 70-year-old man released his chute and launched himself into the air amid a roar of cheers from spectators below.

Father-son bonding

It is almost impossible to guess Nam’s age just by looking at him. Not only does Nam look much younger than 70, he also acts much younger than 70.

While his peers are busy relaxing their days away by taking care of fish and plants, Nam is busy taking to the wind.

Nguyen Huu Nam has been involved in paragliding for over 15 years and has perfected his skills to a great extent. Here he is controlling the chute.
Nguyen Huu Nam has been involved in paragliding for over 15 years and has perfected his skills to a great extent. Here he is controlling the chute.

Despite his youthful attitude, however, fellow paragliders have nicknamed him “Old Nam” so as not to confuse him with others, younger paragliders with the same name.

Old Nam was first introduced to paragliding in 2007 when it was still not so popular in Vietnam and there were only a few places to practice.

His affinity for the sport started because of his son.

Watching his son fly though the air, Nam saw an opportunity to quench his childhood dream of flying.

He has been soaring through the skies ever since.

Nam and his son’s first father-son paragliding outing was on Vien Nam Mountain in Thach That District, Hanoi City, where they joined a group of Vietnamese paragliders and a Japanese coach. 

Loaded with bulky equipment, Nam, then 55, trekked to the mountain’s summit where he admired the Japanese coach at work.

Nguyen Huu Nam dreamed of flying since he was a child.
Nguyen Huu Nam dreamed of flying when he was a child.

Though his son eventually gave up the sport, Nam refused to give up flying.

“Even though my son wasn’t up for it, I still was,” he said.

He has been following paragliding teams all over the country ever since, which is not a particularly easy task given that getting to the best paragliding spots in Vietnam involves climbing mountains, crossing forests, wading through streams, and clearing paths of wild plants.

As the years wore on, Nam polished his paragliding skills and began to make a name of himself amongst the paragliding community, befriending more and more fellow paragliders on climbs to mountain summits and enjoying stunning scenery from a bird’s eye view. 

A dream to fly in Quang Tri

At the age of 70, Old Nam still manages to make it to every paragliding contest held in the country and has visited over 20 paragliding spots.

Nguyen Huu Nam takes off from over Ta Dung lake in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Huu Nam takes off from over Ta Dung lake in Dak Nong Province. Photo: Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre

“I have been to Ha Giang, Hanoi, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Dak Nong, Da Lat, Dong Nai, and more,” he said.

“I’m old, so I participate as a referee and as a member of the organizing committee. I’m seldom a contestant.”

“I still take to the skies after the contest though.”

Nam’s biggest dream is to organize a paragliding event in Quang Tri Province, where he was stationed during the war.

Though he was a promising university student at the time, he paused his studies to fight for his country.

He did not re-enroll in school until winter of 1975.

Nguyen Huu Nam during a 2012 paragliding contest in this supplied photo.
Nguyen Huu Nam during a 2012 paragliding contest in this supplied photo.

“A lot of my friends went to war, but few made it back. I was one of the lucky few,” he said.

“I was able to return home thanks to their sacrifice, so I keep reminding myself to live with a positive mindset until my days are gone.”

“If I could organize a paragliding tournament in this land and fly in its skies, nothing would compare. That is my long-term dream,” he said.

“I also dream of flying over the skies of Ha Giang, where I was born,” he said. 

“I hope that paragliding can add to the beauty of this country and promote tourism.”

Nguyen Huu Nam takes off from Vien Nam Mountain in Hanoi City in this supplied photo.
Nguyen Huu Nam takes off from Vien Nam Mountain in Hanoi City in this supplied photo.

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Tien Bui - Dinh Cuong / Tuoi Tre News

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