A young fish dreaming of bigger ponds
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At the age of 22, Nguyen Ngoc Quang Bao became the youngest swimmer to earn several gold medals at national competitions, and he still aspires to gain higher achievement in international races.
Considering himself ambitious, Bao does not accept his current status as Vietnam’s best and wants to challenge himself on the international stage Photo: Tuoi Tre
Bao started swimming lessons at the age of 7, and he soon found his interest in this water-based sport. Later he was called to the city’s swimming team and joined national contests.
In 2004, he was sent to Australia for training as the first batch of the ‘golden generation’, who was sponsored by the government to improve their talents overseas.
It was the first time that the then-14 year-old Bao had been away from home. He struggled to overcome the language barrier and tried to survive in the new environment. Two months later, Bao won a gold medal in a local youth swimming competition held in Australia.
In 2005, he graduated from Doncaster Secondary College and returned to Vietnam. Soon he won a gold medal at anational swimming race in Hanoi and became the youngest athlete to achieve the highest result at the competition.
He also passed the entrance exam of three local universities and chose to study at the city’s Sports and Physical Gymnastics University.
When he was at his peak, Bao suddenly injured his left shoulder during intense practices.
“My deltoid muscle and cartilage were damaged. I was told by the doctor that the success rate of the necessary operation was 50 percent,” Bao recalled.
Bao thought that he had to give up his dream until he joined a charity event organized by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in the Mekong Delta in 2006. After hearing many unfortunate stories there, the young swimmer realized that his difficulty was small compared to those faced by the people he had met there.
He then decided to undergo an operation and nurtured a chance to get back into racing.
Although his left shoulder could not be cured totally, Bao decided to switch to diving to use the power of his legs.
Last March, Bao brought seven gold medals to Ho Chi Minh City, including four in diving, and broke five national records at the National swimming contest held in Hue.
“Bao has had no competition in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam in the swimming and diving fields since 2010,” said Chung Tan Phong, General Secretary of HCM City Underwater Sport Federation.
Considering himself ambitious, Bao does not accept his current status as Vietnam’s best and wants to challenge himself on the international stage.
“I want to conquer international competitions and become a good coach,” he said.