Everyday, Pham Anh Tu, born in 1990 in An Dinh hamlet, An Thanh commune, Tu Ky district, Hai Duong province, works as a traditional massager at the provincial Blind Association.
Swimmer Pham Anh Tu is brave and strong on blue racetracks
Though his eyes cannot see anything, his hands are very skillful like when they conquer blue racetracks.
Meeting Tu for the first time, people rarely think he has been a record breaker and holder in the 400 m freestyle event of the ASEAN Para Games since 2015. His path to championship went through a lot of hardships.
Tu was born into a family living below the poverty line for years. Despite his father's poor eyesight, his mother still accepted the disadvantage and built a life with him with a hope for children.
Unfortunately, Tu and his two siblings have defects in their most valuable property – eyes – as being born with only about 2/10 vision.
With four out of five family members visually impaired, their situation was very destitute.
Although there always was vaporous fog in front of his eyes, Tu still helped his parents from a young age. He attended school in the morning and caught fish in ponds in the village in the afternoon. After each time of crab catching, Tu liked playing in the cool Thai Binh river the most; hence, he soon could swim very well.
At the age of 12, Tu's sight got dim. Sometimes while harvesting rice or tending buffalos, he realized the light before his eyes gradually narrowed. Only after having gone for a medical examination did he know he suffered from retinal detachment.
His family could not afford the treatment, so Tu became completely blind after a while like his elder brother. He shut himself in at home and could be sad for days if hearing the word "blind."
His life turned a new page when he was introduced to study at the provincial Center for Rehabilitation, Education, Vocational Training, and Job Creation for the Blind in Hai Duong city. Attending classes with those in the same boat, he felt less inferior and found joy in learning and life.
The joy did not stop as in 2006, the provincial Water Sports Center trained 24 visually-impaired students at the provincial Blind Association, including Tu, to choose talents for participation in the 2007 National Para Games in Hue.
Practicing swimming, he felt like returning to his childhood when he freely played in the cool Thai Binh river.
Before going into the water, Tu and his friends were guided on physical strength training and the most basic swimming skills such as breathing techniques in each swimming style, combination of arms and legs, determination of swimming direction, etc. by coaches.
For blind trainees like Tu, the coaches personally instructed them. With wholehearted guidance from the coaches, Tu tried to sketch images in his head for memorization and practiced over and over again.
Thanks to unceasing efforts, in 2007, Tu was one of five swimmers chosen from the 24 visually-impaired students for training and competition at sport tournaments at home and abroad for people with disabilities.
Nhung is the most solid backer of champion Pham Anh Tu
After having been selected for the team, Tu was oriented to focus on freestyle practicing by his coaches for having long arms, a straight body, and strength.
In 2007, Tu was summoned to the provincial disabled swimming team to attend the National Para Games in Hue. He achieved the best results in 50 m and 100 m freestyle events with times of 34sec and 1min 22sec, respectively.
After attendance in the first National Para Games, he has competed in many national and Southeast Asian tournaments and made a lot of achievements.
His highest achievement was made at the 2015 ASEAN Para Games in Singapore. There, he snatched a gold medal in the 400 m freestyle event with a time of 5min 37sec, breaking the old record with 11 seconds faster.
At the end of the Games, Tu pocketed three gold medals in 50 m, 100 m, and 400 m freestyle events and one bronze medal in the 100 m breaststroke event.
There was no 400 m freestyle event at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games and the 2019 ASEAN Para Games was delayed, so Tu is still the champion in this event.
Of 48 gold medals of the national disabled sport delegation, Tu contributed three. This achievement helped him honorably become the first of more than 3,000 members of the provincial Blind Association to have been awarded a 3rd-class Labor Order by the President.
Since 2007, Tu has attended 16 National and ASEAN Para Games and grabbed 35 medals, consisting of 26 golds, five silvers, and four bronzes.
Stepping out of the glory of the medals, he returned to be a visually-impaired man with a desire to build his own happiness.
Since graduation from senior high school, Tu has worked at a traditional massage facility of the provincial Blind Association.
In 2015, he married Ly Thi Nhung (born in 1989), who is also a visually-impaired person from Lang Son province.
They have built a happy home and had a handsome son with completely normal health and eyes.
At present, Tu and his wife are living in a room at the headquarters of the provincial Blind Association and working as massagers to earn their living. Their son is in the countryside with his paternal grandparents.
With his efforts, Pham Anh Tu conquered the pinnacle of disabled sport, brought glory to the country, and increased the achievements of Hai Duong sports.
The simple champion's life is similar to a flower which still shows its beauty and spreads its fragrance no matter what adversity it faces.