30/07/2017 21:43 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Dong Quoc Cuong – the Coach of Swimmers with Disabilities

Wanting to give free swimming lessons to the handicapped, in 1999, Dong Quoc Cuong established the Ho Chi Minh City Handicap Swimming Club. In addition to teaching them to swim, the club also looks for talent and some of the swimmers have won medals at national and international competitions for the handicapped.
Formerly a professional swimmer in the 1960s and 1970s, Dong Quoc Cuong (from Hanoi) was invited by the University of Sports in Ho Chi Minh City to work as a swimming instructor in 1977. While teaching swimming at the Labour Sport Centre in District 3, Dong Quoc Cuong saw handicapped street vendors looking enviously at the swimmers. He knew they wanted to swim.

In 1999, he decided to create the Handicapped Swimming Club in Ho Chi Minh City, so that disabled people would have access to free training. In 2001, the club was transferred to the Tan Binh district swimming pool, where facilities are more conducive for people with reduced mobility.



Dong Quoc Cuong guiding his students in strength training. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong.
Coach Dong Quoc Cuong teaching one of his pupils. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong


Coach Dong Quoc Cuong teaching one of his pupils. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong
Nguyen Quang Vuong's smiling is a student of coach Cuong. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong.
The swimmers of the club practicing the back stroke. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong
Coach Dong Quoc Cuong shares experiences with national champion Pham Thi Cua.
She won 3 gold medals, beat 3 records at 3 Paragames and was voted "Best Athlete" in 2004.

Exchange of ideas between Dong Quoc Cuong and coach Le Thanh Huy, vice-president of the swimming
pool of Tan Binh district and the current director of the club. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong

Dong Quoc Cuong often roamed the streets of Saigon to chat with the handicapped. He asked if they were interested in swimming. Recalling these memories, coach Dong Quoc Cuong said: "Their eyes forced me to do something to help them, because I know they had a great desire to swim."

Many youngsters have become professional swimmers, nationally and even internationally. His trainees have won more than 200 national and international gold medals, among them Vo Thanh Tung, Nguyen Thanh Trung, Nguyen Thi Sari, Pham Thi Cua who set records and brought glory to the country.

Vo Thanh Tung won five gold medals at the 2nd ASIAN Paragames in 2014. In 2016, the National Paralympic Swimming Team won a silver medal at the Rio Paralympic Games. As for Dong Quoc Cuong, he was honoured with the title of "Best Coach" two consecutive years, in 2013 and 2014.    

The coach and Vo Thanh Tung, his pupil participating in an international competition in the city of
Funchal, Portugal, in April 2016. Photo: File

Dong Quoc Cuong and his students in the city of Funchal, Portugal, in April 2016. Photo: File

Dong Quoc Cuong and his students at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Photo: File 


Dong Quoc Cuong and the national team before their participation in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Photo: File

Pham Thi Cua, a student for more than 20 years said, "The teacher loves us like his own children. When we were tired during training or too lazy, he was always there to motivate and encourage us. Pham Thi Cua is now National Swimming Champion. She won 3 gold medals, beat 3 records at 3 Paragames and was voted "Best Athlete" in Vietnam in 2004.

In addition to being a dedicated swimming instructor, Dong Quoc Cuong also helps handicapped athletes unite through marriage. So far, 11 couples have gotten married thanks to this "matchmaker" who only wants happiness for his students.

 
Story: Sơn Nghia - Photos: Dang Kim Phuong and Files