A book saleswoman and Records at Para Games

Being nearly 40 years old, Tran Nguyen Thai has many achievements. She is especially well known for her 5 medals at the Para Games in 2001 and 2005. To achieve these victories as a disabled female, Tran Nguyen is a bright example for all of us to follow.

Family – sorrow and happiness to be shared


Tran Nguyen Thai was born and grew up in Dai Tu village, Thanh Tri district, Hanoi city in a family of 9 children. At o­nly 2 months, she lost her right hand in an oil accident. We have a saying that “we are rich with 2 eyes and poor without hand (s)”, it’s right for Thai, too. She had a difficult childhood trying to do what her friends were doing. She said, “Parents are my sheet-anchor in my life. When I was a child, my mother made me an iron bowl for eating. Everyday, I tried to place the bowl o­n my right elbow with a wish to handle it normally. Each time, when the bowl fell off, rice spread all over o­n the ground, but the bowl never broke. I did try o­n and o­n. Sometimes failure after failure made me tired, but finally, I was successful. I can keep the bowl o­n my elbow instead of holding it like a normal person. When I went out, my mother always said “be careful, dear!” and my father reminded me, “Pull down the hand sleeve to hide the disabled hand”. My parents always gave me better conditions than my siblings”.


Winning the fate


Losing o­ne hand is a great disadvantage for a female but Tran Nguyen Thai always tries to overcome all the difficulties with her will and effort. In spite of having a left hand o­nly, Thai can still write beautifully. She also learnt to knit and does it well. In her free time, apart from helping her parents with the housework, Thai often go searching for crabs and nails to improve family meals. At school, she is a friendly and good student. When she was a primary and secondary pupil, Thai always achieved the “Progressive Pupil” Award and her highest achievement was the 2nd Prize in Chemistry Contest of Hanoi City (School year 1983 – 1984).


A book female-seller and Records at Para Games


Tran Nguyen Thai did find enjoyment at the Tang Bat Ho swimming pool. During her last years at secondary school, everyday when she was not studying, she sold goods and spent her small income o­n swimming. o­ne swimming hour everyday is relaxing for her, “All my anger and sorrows go away when I am swimming” she explains. For such passion, she didn’t wait to join the swimming club of disabled people in 1998 but swam since she was in grade 7 at secondary school. Without money to enroll in swimming lessons at Thanh Nien swimming pool (Hanoi), she stood outside and overheard the lessons. The swimming teacher felt sympathetic and taught her for free. She chose butterfly swimming because she could hide her hand in the water while swimming. Being introduced by Mr. Chinh, her swimming coach, Thai came and trained at Khuc Hao sport club. Her efforts have been repaid at last. Sports fans know her as the recipient of the National Sports Prize for Disabled People. Tran Nguyen Thai raised the reputation of Vietnamese Sports when she won 5 medals (especially for breaking the world record for women’s butterfly swimming) of 14 medals gained by the Vietnam disabled delegation at the Para Games 2 held in Vietnam.


Unfortunately, Thai suffers from a skin disease forcing her to give up swimming, an activity she has pursued for over 20 years. She was not discouraged by this instead changed to running. Her name was again sounded at ASEAN Para Games 3 as o­ne of the top 4 runners. Thai said, “Before the contest, my right leg was injured which made me worried. However, the encouragement of my coach and the audience gave me more strength to defeat my competitors”. The success at ASEAN Para Games 3 enhanced her strength, belief and aspiration for victory.


After the glorious time of the victory, Tran Nguyen Thai comes back to the daily life which seems to be quiet. Everyday, she continues to sell books in front of a Credit Fund nearby Hanoi Railway Station and does sports training. Monthly, she earns a few hundred thousand dong from selling books and 400,000 to 500,000 subsidy for sports training which is also sufficient for her essential demands. However, Thai hopes to find a stable job so she can afford her life o­n her own when she stops competing.

Vietnam Sports
Translated by VWU Int’l Relations Dept.