Disabled Vietnamese track-and-field athlete becomes chef, creates jobs for peers

He opened a restaurant a month ago

Cao Ngoc Hung, a disabled athlete, cooks at his diner in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Cao Ngoc Hung is not only a top track-and-field athlete with disabilities in Vietnam, but also a chef and restaurant owner.

The javelin thrower has gained great achievements in the field: awards at many national Paralympic Games, ASEAN Para Games and most notably a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

However, for the 27-year-old who has a passion for cooking, that was not enough.

Five years back, Hung started to learn how to cook.

A month ago, he opened a restaurant in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, with his wife, Nguyen Ngoc Hai, who is also an athlete with disabilities.

They couple together won four gold medals and one silver for Team Vietnam at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia.

“It was a risky decision. All the money we have earned from our competitions throughout these years was spent on the rent and the servers’ salaries,” Hung said.

“But we have been athletes for a long time. It’s time we prepared for the future.”

There are days when Hung has to work for 12 hours straight, which does not seem less demanding than training and competing.

Cao Ngoc Hung and his wife, Nguyen Ngoc Hai, celebrate their achievements at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Cao Ngoc Hung and his wife, Nguyen Ngoc Hai, celebrate their achievements at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“It requires strength as well, as you have to hold the pan and cook for a long time,” the javelin athlete said.

“I am the only chef at the moment. I plan to look for someone who can take care of the cooking for me so that I can train with the team in the future.”

Being an athlete with disabilities himself, Hung hires people in similar conditions to help them have a better life.

“It is not easy because we cannot serve as quickly as other people. But the customers understand it and do not complain,” Hung said.

“That does matter, though. I am happy as long as I have a job like everybody else,” said Nguyen Thanh Danh, a humpbacked server.

Hung and Hai will of course have to try a lot on their journey ahead but their two children have given them the strength and inspiration to overcome any obstacle.

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