When Nguyen Thanh Tung first performed on the stage at Vietnam Idol 2012, he scored points with the public with his attractive appearance and charming smile.

When he started singing, he made people believe he belonged to a generation of rising singers. When he rose to the contest's top six contestants, more people thought he had no alternative but to pursue a singing career.

In fact, Nguyen Thanh Tung has already become known throughout the world for the martial art wushu, which he is now top ranked in.

Tung, himself, thinks wushu, a martial art originating in China, will be his love forever.

Born into a family in which no one practices martial arts, Tung was advised to take part in wushu classes to improve his physical strength, which was weakened by asthma.

The 11-year-old then followed his aunt, national coach Nguyen Phuong Lan, to train at the Hanoi Wushu Club.

Looking at her slender son, Tung's mother did not believe he would stand up to strenuous training. But he did a great job. After the first year of practicing, Tung not only had a healthy physique, but also fell in love with the martial art, which requires endurance and litheness.

He cannot forget the first tough days.

"At first, like my family, I trained with a view to become stronger. But then I gradually adored it. Practising wushu is not easy. It hurt, really hurt me. Athletes need to train to be lithe, like a gymnast, while we need to maintain footing (after each move and jumps). I had to work hard every day to have just one beautiful, but powerful move, as I perform," Tung said.

"Sometimes, I was tired due to the heavy practices, while the most difficult time was when I was injured, which made me really discouraged. But my parents and friends encouraged me a lot and pushed me on," he added.

One year later Tung was asked to join the Hanoi team and took part in the national championships. In 2005 he became a national team member.

Spending much time in the sport, Tung had never thought of winning at a world tournament, because he knew there were many masters in the world and he did not have the skill to defeat them.

Therefore, the first medal he earned would be the most memorable one of his life.

"Coaches allowed me to take part in the World Junior Wushu Championships in Malaysia in 2005. It was my international debut, so I was very nervous and scared, but happy because it was a chance to meet with many athletes from all over the world. But when I started performing, I felt really confident and had a perfect performance that brought me a gold," Tung said.

It has been about 10 years now and the Hanoian has had a large number of titles which he won at local and global competitions. He reached the world level with a gold in the taijiquan event, won at the world tournament in Turkey in 2011.

His latest award is a gold medal from the World Games held in Cali, Colombia, in early August.

Yet, at the age of 21, Tung, who is the key member of the national team, has never won at a Southeast Asian Games competition.

In his first SEA Games experiences, Tung returned home empty handed. It was not until 2009 in Laos that he received a silver medal for his strong performance in taijiquan.

Over the next two years, he sharpened his skills for a rematch, but wushu was not to be part of the SEA Games held in Indonesia. So he had to stay home, while watching other sportsmen compete on TV.

The 27th SEA Games is now approaching, with wushu competitions being held before the opening ceremony.

Tung and teammates in the taolu (performance) squad are expected to bring home the first medals, possibly the first gold, to the Vietnam Team.

He has to compete in both taijiquan and taijijian events for one all-round title.

The wushu team on Wednesday left for Myanmar with the hope of winning three gold medals. The martial arts matches will take place till December 10.

Multi-ability martial artist

Wushu is his strong point, while singing is his passion.

"Music is my hobby, which only comes after wushu. I have watched Vietnam Idol since the first season and dreamed of one day performing on stage," he said.

"But my busy calendar of training and competing have barred me from performing for a long time. But then I decided to take part in the contest, because of my admiration for it and for the experience.

"I kept my registration secret, even from my mother, who always backs me in all decisions. She only knew when I advanced to the Northern qualification and, as usual, I was strongly supported."

Coming to the contest, Tung did not set any target but, surprisingly, he received the love of the crowd which, as he said, gave him more confidence to continue with his music.

During the contest, judge My Tam, one of Vietnam's leading divas, said Tung had a warm and attractive voice which would make him a successful singer if he had time to perfect his confidence and performing style.

Meanwhile, judge-director Nguyen Quang Dung said he was really surprised when facing a martial arts world champion, but he was even more interested in Tung's voice.

That beautiful voice led Tung to the finals of Vietnam Idol and placed him at N°6. The athlete had to stand behind competitors who have spent years singing and performing on different stages.

While singing is his inborn talent, Tung also can play piano and violin, which he taught himself.

"I love music and have tried to test myself in different fields. However, wushu is my career, which has helped me grow up and I will never leave it," said Tung.
"To music, I have not had any further plans. If I have an opportunity in the future, I hope to take part in activities, but just for fun.

"My dream are to perform in international championships and become a professional coach," said Tung, who is pursuing his academic studies at the Bac Ninh Sports College.-VNA