Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

By Thanh Hue   June 14, 2020 | 08:07 pm GMT+7
They have to make do with basic facilities and deal with sweltering heat, but female athletes in Thai Nguyen give it their all.
Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

As early as 5 a.m., at the Thai Nguyen Sports Center in the eponymous northern province, female wrestlers and other athletes have already begun their training routines. In the summer, the teams have two training sessions a day, from 5 to 6 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m.

Doan Van Cong, director of the center, said that of the 180 athletes using the facilities, 132 were women practicing 15 different sports.

“In recent years, in sports like kayaking, wrestling, kickboxing and Muay Thai, the women have shown significant progress, winning many titles at domestic, regional and international tournaments. That’s why they are focused now than in the past,” Cong said.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

Previously, the wrestling team had to rent a training location because there was no space for them at the center.

“There was a time when the team rented a training location on the fourth floor of a market, one kilometer away from the center. In the summer, the sun heats up the metal roof which made the room even hotter. It was like walking on fire when we stepped on the training mat. Things have gotten a bit easier when we moved to the center,” said coach Nguyen Thi Hang, who has worked 14 years at the facility.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

Ly Thi Mua, 14, has been practicing wrestling for nearly two years. After a year of training in native Lao Cai Province, Mua moved to Thai Nguyen.

“Sometimes, training at high intensity in hot weather makes me tired very soon. But when I think about the upcoming tournament in July, I don’t allow myself to stop trying, since this will be my first tournament,” Mua said.

Mua comes from a family of farmers on the northern border. Her older sisters quit school and got married when they were young. Mua has chosen sports as her path with a dream of going to university.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

At 3 p.m., the second training session of the day begins. Some women go outside to practice under the shade of trees.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

Next to the training room of the wrestling team is where weightlifters train. For the last 20 years, this rundown space hasn’t been upgraded and the women are still using old and rusty equipment.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

The weightlifters powder their hands in an old plastic basin.

"This powder helps increase friction and prevent our hands from sweating. In addition, I have to wrap towels around my wrist and wear a safety belt to avoid accidents," said wrestler Ly Ha Vy.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

In 2019, Nguyen Thi Hong Thi won a bronze medal for the Thai Nguyen Sports Union at a national event. Currently, Thi is the second best athlete of the team. The women's weightlifting team consists of eight members aged 13-25. Before joining the team, each member has to go through three to four years of training at the Sports School for the Gifted.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

At every lunch break, the wrestling team members put their phones into a box. "This is to guarantee that the athletes get a nap. Without a nap at noon, they will quickly feel tired and it will be difficult to focus on the afternoon training," said Phung Thi Hue, head of the wrestling team.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

Athletes take a shower and freshen up after the day’s training session, before having dinner, which is served depending on the training time of each team.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

“The cost of meals for athletes have been adjusted to VND120,000 ($5.15) per person per day to ensure adequate nutrition and necessary calories,” said Nguyen Thi Mai, who has been working as a chef at the facility for 13 years.

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

As they pursue a career in sports, the young girls and women not only have to live independently of parents at an early age, but also ensure that they continue their academic education.

Wrestler Phung Thi Hue, 27, (R) said: “The stipend for practicing sports is not much but it was enough for me to cover my tuition fees from my high school years. When I was called to join the provincial sports team, my mother initially objected because she was worried about her daughter being away from home. But I have worked hard with passion for 11 years now, and I have made my mother proud by winning over 20 medals at various tournaments.”

Vietnamese women athletes strain to train in tough conditions

The women's wrestling team takes a break after a day of training. The dormitory for athletes is located on the second, third and fourth floor of the Thai Nguyen Sports Center, and the facilities here are sparse, too.

 
 
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