Canada's "Super Nam' glides toward Olympics

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A twelve-year-old Vietnamese-Canadian is taking the figure skating world by storm


Champion of the 2011 Canadian Junior Men's Championships, Nguyen Phuc Nam (C), aka Nam Nguyen, poses for a picture with the runner-up Shaquille Davis (L) and bronze medalist Peter O'Brien (R)

Nguyen Phuc Nam's goal is to be the first Vietnamese-Canadian to take home an Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

The four-foot-nine-inch (1.45- meter) tall boy from the town of Burnaby in British Columbia says he dreams of taking home the medal.

"This is my ultimate dream," Nam told Thanh Nien Weekly via email.

And many people in Canada share his aspiration.

After Nam won the Canadian junior men's figure skating title on January 20, Canadian Press news agency touted him as the country's figure skating future.

The twelve-year-old boy also known as Nam Nguyen was born to a Vietnamese couple in Ontario in 1998.

At age five, Nam had already found his way onto the ice.

"Hockey is a favorite sport for all kids here and I began to learn to skate to play hockey at five, then I started to learn figure skating when I was six," he wrote to Thanh Nien Weekly, via email. "I continued playing hockey until I won my first national title at the age of eight; then, I decided to quit hockey so I could focus on figure skating."

Nam, a seventh grader at Brentwood Park Elementary School, said he is very energetic and disciplined.

Like most boys his age, he likes to play PSP, Nintendo DS, X-Box, and chat with his friends.

However, he is well aware of his huge talent and the big plans everyone has for this little man.

"Everybody in the skating world calls me "˜Super Nam,'" he said. He finds the nickname "funny."

But fitting.

Nam has already pocketed four national titles - the first of which he won at the age of eight.

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The Vietnamese Olympic Committee plans to invite Nam Nguyen to compete for Vietnam during the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Japan, the body's general secretary Hoang Vinh Giang told Thanh Nien on February 23.

"It moved me when I saw the picture of the proud, small Nam Nguyen standing on the podium with two tall Canadians," he said. "His accomplishments have shown the features of a genius. After local newspapers reported about Nam Nguyen, I spoke immediately with other leaders in the Vietnam Sports Administration about inviting him to compete for Vietnam."

He said Vietnam is expected to take part in the 2017 Asian Winter Games and figure skating will be among the sports to be registered.

However he said it could be difficult to have Nam Nguyen compete for Vietnam because he is currently a Canadian national. Giang said the Vietnam Sports Administration would officially contact Nam's family to discuss the issue.

In Canada, Nam has been touted by the media as something of a skating prodigy.

The Vancouver Sun ran a story last month with the headline: "Nguyen's age is the only thing that's holding him back" from international titles.

In May, Nam will turn 13 and become eligible to compete in international figure skating championships.

"I'm hoping that I can get Junior Grand Prix International assignments from Figure Skating Canada Associations, because right now I'm too young to compete internationally," he said.

Nam told Thanh Nien Weekly he hopes to become a competitive skater for a while.

In the end, Nam aspires to become a sports physician, like his mother.

"I want to learn how injuries occur in figure skating and how to prevent and cure them," he said.

Unbelievable

Nam said that, when he began taking skating lessons, no one believed he would, one day, claim a national title - except for his coach.

"My former figure skating coach, Kevin Bursey, saw so much potential and talent in me that he believed I could actually win the upcoming national title," he said. "At that time my family laughed at his [prediction]. No one believed him."

Nam's parents took Bursey's advice and continued to give him a chance to train.

"They always support me to keep succeeding more and more... and I'm really proud and happy to have them as loving parents," Nam said.

Vietnamese pride

Nam's father, Nguyen Hong Son, was a former student at the Fisheries University in the coastal resort town of Nha Trang. In 1988, he migrated from the southern province of Dong Nai, 35 kilometers to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, to Canada.

Nam's mother, Le Lien Thu, from the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, is a graduate of the HCMC University of Medicine. Thu immigrated to Canada in 1994.

"I'm very proud of my Vietnamese roots," Nam said.

He's visited Vietnam three times at age two, four and seven.

Nam says his family doesn't have plans to come back anytime soon. Right now, his family is trying to save up money for his training.

"But I'd love to visit Vietnam," he said.

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