A lottery seller with disability has left behind all hardship and emerged as one of the strongest disabled weightlifters not only in Vietnam but also in Asia.
On October 8, Nguyen Binh An won the second gold medal for Team Vietnam at the Asian Para Games 2018, after topping the men’s 54kg weightlifting category.
The Asian Para Games is a multisport event that is held parallel to Asian Games for the continent’s athletes with disability.
Since the inaugural edition in 2010, the competition has usually been held after every Asian Games in the same host country. This year the event is held in Jakarta, Indonesia from October 6 to 13.
As An also won a gold medal at last Asian Para Games and a silver at the world’s tournament, he was considered to be a fierce competitor among the eight competing weightlifters in Indonesia, according to Vietnam News Agency.
He won at 178 kilograms, which is 21 kilograms more than the silver medalist Degtyarev David from Kazakhstan, who lifted 157 kilograms.
“I am very happy to win this medal for Vietnam. My next goal is to train to do my best at the world’s competition in 2019,” said the gold medalist.
From handicapped lottery seller to medal-snatching weightlifter
Nguyen Binh An was born in 1985 in the southern province of Tra Vinh.
At the age of six, he suffered from a fever that left his lower body paralyzed for the rest of his life.
Despite the efforts he made, there was not much help offered to the young boy. At the age of 16 he moved to Tra Vinh’s capital city to learn sewing to work for factories and manufacturers.
However, this profession did not make enough living for him to sustain himself.
Hence, the disabled young man had to resort to selling lottery tickets despite how harsh the job may be.
Lottery ticket selling is a common profession many poor families resort to when their current job does not provide enough.
The job, however, is far from being comfortable.
An had to travel dozens of kilometers every day on his wheelchairs from early morning to late night in order to earn enough. The sellers are usually looked down on by many and pitied by others.
During these tough times, the disabled lottery seller had to go from one potential customer to another to earn as little as VND1,000 (US$0.04) per ticket sold.
“Those were the sad days,” An recalled.
“Whether it was sunny or rainy, I would be all alone.
“It is difficult for normal people, and even harder for the disabled.
“So as to escape the negative thoughts I would spend as much of my time on the streets selling tickets as possible.
“When I got hungry I would find something to eat and then go on with selling the tickets.”
The chance for An to become a professional weightlifter occurred like a fate in 2003 when weightlifting for paralyzed people became a popular sport in Vietnam.
An began to compete on national level in 2010 and won a gold medal. Little did he know that no one would be able to push him out of that spot for a long time.
Ever since, An has won many prizes in international, regional and local competitions.
Two ‘princesses’ are his motivation
The ‘number one’ motivation for An are his two daughters - Nguyen Ngoc Binh, eight years old, and Nguyen Binh Nghi, seven years old, according to the disabled champion.
“When I’m competing I do not set out goals for medals, or the amount of money I would receive,” he confided.
“I only try to do my best like I promised the two ‘princesses’ at home.”
When the weightlifter was still selling lottery tickets, he got to know his wife and got married.
The couple had two daughters, one of whom lived with them while the other one grew up with her grandparents.
“Probably in my life there is nothing I am more afraid of than having my daughters being self-conscious of having a disabled father,” he shared.
“Before they have a full understanding of the circumstances, they might compare themselves with friends.
“But now I am my daughters’ pride.”
He recalled the time his children told him how their teacher praised their father in front of the class as a Vietnamese representative at international sports competition.
“That’s the biggest motivation for me to do my best,” he said.
“Moreover, when I compete well, I also receive a considerable income.”
Nguyen Binh An wishes to save up enough money to open his own gyms, where he can help and encourage others who are facing the same difficulties.
“That’s how I show appreciation to the universe,” said the champion indicating his gratefulness to how his life has turned out.
Other Vietnamese competitors with outstanding results at Asian Para Games 2018 include female weightlifter Dang Thi Linh Phuong, who won gold in the 50kg category, Chau Hoang Tuyet Loan who won a silver medal in the 55kg event.
Nguyen Van Phuc also snatched a bronze medal at the men’s 59kg weightlifting category.
Another significant achievement of Team Vietnam is the gold medal in the men’s 50m backstroke by swimmer Vo Thanh Tung. Tung also broke the Asian Para Games record for the event, touching the wall after only 38.50 seconds.
As of 10:00pm on October 11, Team Vietnam stood at the 11th place out of 44 countries and territories on the medal tallu, with 27 medals, including six gold.