Paralysed hip-hop dancer defies physical limits

Audiences at last month's 2013 Got To Dance competition witnessed 31-year-old Nguyen Thanh Trung do a handstand dance move on stage, turning his body many times in a kind of reverse pirouette.
Audiences at last month's 2013 Got To Dance competition witnessed 31-year-old Nguyen Thanh Trung do a handstand dance move on stage, turning his body many times in a kind of reverse pirouette.

Trung, who has no use of his legs, had his audience in awe as his moves added the element of surprise to the show, and gave an edge to his team's performance, the AAT dance group.

The audience was emotional after his efforts and judge and actress Minh Hang gave her opinion of his talents that night.

"You danced beyond your our belief in your capacity and overcame everything to stand on this stage. You are worthy to be highly honoured by everyone," Hang said. "Trung should not thank the audience but they, including me, should say thanks to him because he inspires us all to try harder."

Trung said he knows many people love him and that audiences are moved by his presence on the stage, but says it's about his hard work and not just his disability.

"To reach this stage I have spent a lot of time and suffered many hardships to practice the movements, particularly the handstand," he said, adding that he bares many scars on his elbows and sides.

He recalled that he first discovered hip hop at the age of 13 from a video clip on the internet. "It excited me so much," he said.

"I'm very poor, but when I earn a little amount of money, I still spend it all on my passion for hip hop, such as leasing a computer to access to the internet so I can find out more about hip hop and how to treat myself when being injured during practice."

He said he has great passion for hip hop but it has challenged him a lot. An ordinary person often has to spend three hours to practice a single movement but he had to put in double time because he had to struggle with his paralysed legs. "Despite fainting many times, I try my best to practice each dance step and improve bit by bit," Trung said.

Trung joined the AAT dance group in Can Tho, but he had to prove himself first. "At first group expressed some misgivings about having me in their crew but later they were convinced by my capability and my passion. Soon I became a central character of the group. We have received offers to perform in Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City and always get loud applause from audiences," he said.

Since catching the hip hop bug Trung has won two consecutive championships, 2009 and 2010, at the Youth's Dance of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta. In 2010 Trung also bagged the third prize at the National Youth Dance competition.

"When joining the contest, many fans and competitors look at me doubtfully because they don't know how I can compete with my paralysed legs. Many of them even took pity on me. But after the contest, they poured praise on me, congratulating and shaking my hands and saying I was worthy of winning," he recalled.

Swimming is another string to Trung's bow, which he has also used to earn a small income. Trung's poor parents earn a living from fishing and they often had to leave their son home alone since he was a small child.

Trung was determined to learn to swim and he began to practice when he was nine years old, after falling into a pond more than once when his parents were out earning a living for the family.

He asked his father to drive bamboo stakes at regular distances into a pond and he used them to practice swimming by leaning on them as he learned to use his upper body to swim.

As a result of his determination he could swim well after only three months' practice. After that he felt confident in following his friends into local waterways to catch crabs and snails in streams and lakes and sell them to earn money to help his parents buy food.

"However, there were many times I got stuck in the mud and had to ask my friends for help," Trung recalled.

In 2011 he registered to join a national swimming championship for paralysed people, taking two gold medals from the tally.

Later that year, he competed in the ASEAN Para Games held in Indonesia where he bagged three medals - one gold, one silver and one bronze.

Then, on a roll, he pocketed a gold medal at 2012 ASEAN Para Games and qualified for the London Paralympic in the same year.

At this year's National Para Games in Hanoi, Trung won three gold medals which helped him secure a place at the ASEAN Para Games to be held in Myanmar next month.

Vu The Phiet, general secretary of the Vietnam Paralympic Association, said he admired Trung's efforts very much. "I hope he brings home a gold medal," he said.

Apart from hip hop dance and swimming he often earns money as a wedding singer to help his family out. "People in my hometown often invite me to sing at their weddings during wedding season because they believe that I will bring happiness and good luck to them," Trung said.

He dropped out of school at the age of 15 in order to support his parents, who had fallen ill, by taking up the family trade of fishing.-VNA

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