Powerlifting champ Nguyen wants to start a gym to train para athletes
Powerlifting gold medallist's long-term goal is to open a gym to train para athletes
He set a new Games record of 170kg when he won gold in the 54kg event at the last Asean Para Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar last year.
Yesterday at Marina Bay Sands, powerlifter Nguyen Binh An rewrote that record with a lift of 175kg on his first attempt.
The Vietnamese star, who has set his sights on achieving success at next year's Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, failed to pull off a lift of 180kg in his next two attempts, but the Asian record-holder (183kg) was happy with his gold-medal effort.
"I'm very excited to win gold for my country at this Asean Para Games," he said.
"This time, we're not pushing to the limits to beat the record, and of course, to avoid any injuries."
Vietnam won two other golds on the first day of the powerlifting competition, with Le Van Cong claiming winning the men's 49kg division and Le Thi Anh Nga triumphant in the women's 45kg.
For Nguyen, these Games are a stepping stone to the Rio next year.
The 30-year-old just missed out on a medal at the 2012 London Paralympics, finishing fourth in the up to 52kg division.
China's Qi Feng won gold with a lift of 176kg, while Nguyen's best was 163kg.
Nguyen, who is currently the world No. 2 in the 54kg division, said: "Of course, the dream of every athlete's life and career is to get a gold.
"And of course it is my dream as well.
"But, at the moment, I need to practise and train more every day. And also avoid injuries, of course."
The Vietnamese is eyeing a medal in Rio to help in his long-term goal.
He hopes his fame will help convince more Vietnamese with disabilities to take up and sport, and he also wants to earn enough money to open a gym to help train them.
When he was six, Nguyen contracted a fever which was so serious that he was eventually paralysed from the waist down.
Life became a struggle until fate intervened again seven years ago.
Nguyen was selling lottery tickets near a stadium when he spotted a number of para athletes working out.
He was curious and decided to have a closer look.
Eventually, the coach, who was apparently impressed by his physique, invited him to join the group.
"When I started, I used the weightlifting equipment that able-bodied people use and it was hard to find my balance," he said.
"It got to a point where I even contemplated quitting.
"But my coach kept on encouraging me and soon, with the help of government funding, I could train with professional equipment."
Nguyen has improved by leaps and bounds and is now a bona fide world-class para powerlifter.
"I want to let the world know about Vietnam's powerlifters," he said.
"I see many people (with disabilities) just like me, but they don't know that there are these sports, and that they can give us an opportunity to change our lives.
"I feel the responsibility, and I'd love to change their lives, just like how my coach changed my life seven years ago."
"I feel the responsibility to and I’d love to change their lives, just like how my coach changed my life seven years ago."
- Powerlifter Nguyen Binh An
BY THE NUMBERS
Vietnam won three Asean Para Games golds in powerlifting yesterday.