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article imageInterview with Paul Le Nguyen: Vietnamese professional swimmer Special

By Markos Papadatos     May 4, 2020 in Sports
Vietnamese swimmer Paul Le Nguyen, who trains at NC State University, chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos while quarantined during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He opened up about the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021. "It worked out for me in two ways. The athletes' mindset is to do whatever it takes to get to the Olympics. They may push their body to the extent of possibly getting sick not worrying about the repercussions. I know many athletes around the world would not take the pandemic as seriously as it really is," he said.
"For me, it is a relief that athletes will have some time to stay healthy and give themselves a break mentally and most importantly physically," he said. "Coming from a six-day meet in the Philippines (SEA Games 30 - Southeast Asian Games) in December of 2019, I got a partial tear in my bicep tendon from racing many events and was running out of time to qualify for Tokyo."
Paul Le Nguyen
Paul Le Nguyen
Photo Courtesy of Paul Le Nguyen
"The postponement of the Olympic Games has allowed me to heal and have more time to train with a new swimming program at NC State University to get ready for 2021. I recently moved from Springfield, Missouri, as I was training there post-grad. I majored in Logistics and Supply Chain Management with a minor in Accounting from Missouri State University," he added.
Regarding his daily motivations, he said, "Swimming inspires me to become a hard worker each and every day. While pushing my body to the limits in the pool, I try to transition that towards my life outside the pool in every aspect such as becoming a better friend, a better cook, learning every aspect of the business world. Burning as many calories as I do, I love to gain it all back by eating everything in sight. I love to eat unhealthy foods. My life motto is 'what if I die knowing that I could have had a big juicy burger the day before?'"
On being a swimmer in the digital age, he said, "With information so readily available at the push of a button, it actually harmed me. Since I was very into social media, I was instantly seeing everyone's lives on display and started to focus less on my life, and more on others. I wasn't happy with my life choosing to swim post-grad rather than entering the workforce because I saw every one of my friends moving on with their lives."
"I felt as if I was living a hopeless childhood dream. In another aspect, it is amazing seeing results from competitions instantly, and seeing how everyone is doing. It's almost as if you're keeping up with people without them knowing," he added.
Regarding the impact of technology on the sport of swimming, he said, "I feel as if technology brings a whole other dimension to the sport. Not only do you have a physical coach on the pool deck analyzing your stroke outside of the water, but you can also have video taken of your strokes and your body underneath the surface. It brings a lot to the table as if there is an extra coach working on you. Just like all of the other professional sports (NBA and the NFL), you can replay your races and show yourself on what to do better next time."
For young and aspiring swimmers, he said, "My advice to swimmers, present and future is to have fun, as cliche as that sounds. Many swimmers burn out of the sport before college. They can never expect too much from their body. The body will work itself to the max and take care of the race. All you have to do is sit back and have fun. If you need a break, make sure to take one. I grew up playing three other sports (tennis, gymnastics, and soccer) so I used those sports to channel my energy elsewhere or needed a mental break. Swimming is very mentally and physically taxing, so take it easy."
He reflected on some of his proudest moments in the sport of swimming. "The proudest moment of my life is when I qualified for the Rio Olympic Games for the country my parents are from. Both of my parents are refugees from the Vietnam War and sought refuge in America. They were sponsored by a church in America to come over to this country. They are known as the 'Vietnamese Boat People.' Ever since I was a child, I wanted to represent my heritage and culture on a big stage," he said.
On his personal favorite stroke in swimming, he responded, "My favorite stroke is breaststroke, personally. I am absolutely not good at holding my breath, and breaststroke allows me to breathe every single stroke. I am primarily a backstroker, so it is nice to take a break and do a completely different stroke in practice. It keeps the practices a little less gruesome."
He defined the word success as follows: "when a person is truly satisfied in the present." "Whether it means cooking a great meal, or having a great conversation with a random stranger. If you are satisfied, and greatly pleased with yourself, that is a success in my book."
To learn more about Vietnamese swimmer Paul Le Nguyen, follow him on Instagram.
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