From heartbreak to winning hearts: a Vietnamese bodybuilder’s story

By Hai Hien   December 25, 2021 | 06:33 pm PT
After losing weight over a heartbreak, Luong Hong Son hit the gym to shake off stress and negativity. Today, he is an inspiring award-winning bodybuilder and entrepreneur.

Son, a native of the northern province of Bac Giang, says the most memorable milestone after seven years of training in Japan is receiving the Pro Card, a professional athlete card from the International Federation Of Bodybuilding And Fitness (IFBB) that allows him to compete in professional bodybuilding competitions.

"My goal in 2022 is to pass the qualifying round so that in 2023, I will become the first Vietnamese to appear on the stage of Mr. Olympia - the world's most prestigious bodybuilding championship in America." the 30 years old said.

Such an achievement was not even in the imagination of the 30 year old Son when he began going to the gym in 2014.

At that time, he and his girlfriend were international students in Japan. They later broke up since Son spent up 8-12 hours working part time jobs every day after school and could not make time to spend time with her. The heartbreak saw his weight drop from 51 kg to 47 kg.

Luong Hong Son in 2014 (L) and during his time competing for Olympia Amateur Japan 2021. Photo courtesy of Son

Luong Hong Son in 2014 and at the Olympia Amateur Japan 2021 competition. Photo courtesy of Son

One day, he decided to go to the gym to relieve stress, get rid of his despondency and reinvest in himself.

After six months, he’d achieved a toned body, gained more muscle mass and his weight increased to 60 kg.

Feeling more confident, Son shared his transformation journey with groups of Vietnamese living in Japan and began to receive many inquiries about his training and nutrition regimen.

Son next to the bodybuilding awards he received in Japan. Photo courtesy of Son

Son with the bodybuilding awards he has received in Japan. Photo courtesy of Son

In April 2016, Son passed the entrance exam to Kyushu International University, majoring in Business Administration. At school, he realized that his mind was fixed on bodybuilding. In his second year, he decided to drop out of school and focus on bodybuilding as a career.

However, in order to stay in Japan under a business visa, Son had to establish a company with a charter capital of at least VND1 billion (over $43,000).

But he had not done his research well. Some components in the new supplement were not allowed in Japan and the goods could not get customs clearance.

After a year, the company stabilized somewhat, but profit was low. He changed tactics and registered for the Evolgear Japan Open bodybuilding competition in Osaka City in June 2018, so as to boost his profile and sell more products.

However, Son could not reach the top 20 in the competition that attracts around 300 competitors.

"Where you fail, you have to get up there," he told himself. He began to look into the reasons for his failure. After many nights of research, he realized that his diet was not correct.

A week before the competition, a bodybuilder must reduce water and salt intake to help skin and muscles "stick to the body and show off a more defined body" on the competition floor.

Two months later, he won the title at a bodybuilding competition in Fukuoka Prefecture. As he'd hoped, the victory won him greater recognition among the Vietnamese community in Japan, attracting more followers on social media. The sales of supplements also increased thanks to his popularity.

Today, his monthly earnings is around VND2 billion, his businesses earning a profit of 35 percent.

"No matter how hard it gets, Son tries to push himself to overcome the hardship, whether in his training or at work. When he worked in my real estate company, he was often elected the best employee," said Nguyen Duc Long, Son's former boss, also vice president of the Japan - Vietnam Trade Association.

Son (M) wins the championship at the Olympia Amateur Japan on Nov. 13, 2021. Photo courtesy of Son

Son (M) wins the Olympia Amateur Japan championship, November 13, 2021. Photo courtesy of Son

Not forgetting his 2018 failure at the bodybuilding tournament in Osaka, Son re-registered for the Evolgear Japan Open. This time, he won the championship.

In 2021, he won the West Japan Championships and Olympia Amateur Japan titles.

His formula for success is simple, Son says. Doing what he is passionate about is "happier than having a lot of money."

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