Focus on International Students: Win, future doctor – and an aspiring ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Thắng Nguyễn climbs a tree on campus

Thắng Nguyễn climbs a tree on campus

This is the fourth in a series of stories on SUNY Broome’s international students, who come from all over the globe. The college will celebrate International Week from Nov. 13 through 17. International students will share the cuisines of their homeland at the Dining Hall, and will visit the BC Center to read children’s books from their home countries.

Today we meet Thang Nguyễn, known as Win, a Health Studies student from Vietnam with a truly incredible hobby.

Thang Nguyễn has some definite goals for his future: transfer to the University at Buffalo, ultimately become a family physician. And somewhere along the way, become an American Ninja Warrior.

Thắng Nguyễn competing on a flaming obstacle course

Thắng Nguyễn competing on a flaming obstacle course

The Health Sciences major, who goes by the name Win, has a passion for both running and obstacle courses, and a grueling training schedule that he truly enjoys. Feeling under the weather? A run will fix you up, along with drinking hot water and taking plenty of Vitamin C, he said. And he should know: That’s the regime he did two days before this interview, and he was doing fine – fine enough, in fact, to climb a tree for the photo shoot.

“I want to be a doctor but I don’t want to take medicine,” he said with a smile.

Win at the OCR World Championships

Win at the OCR World Championships

Win has surmounted a different obstacle course, too. From central Vietnam, he moved to Binghamton with his mother, brother and sister while his father and older brother stayed behind. At the age of 16, he found himself as a student in Binghamton High School – knowing no English, and trying to make the most out of his opportunities here.

He worked hard, translating homework assignments into Vietnamese and then back into English, an effort that took a lot of time. To make friends and master the language, his teachers suggested he join a sports team; he chose track and field.

While he loves to run – he typically logs 5 to 8 miles a day, more when he’s training for longer races – he needed something more. Perhaps it dates back to his youth in Vietnam, where he would climb palm trees to get coconuts. Perhaps it’s a desire to strengthen a weak left hand, injured when he was a small child trying to leap onto a pull-up bar.

Rock climbing is part of Win's regular exercise routine

Rock climbing is part of Win’s regular exercise routine

He’s participated in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) events, including world championships that drew competitors from 65 countries. He’s done a Spartan Race, and he’s thinking about training for a 24-hour obstacle course, maybe next year.

Yes, 24 hours. Competitors run and do a circuit of obstacles for an entire day and night, and the winner is the one who went the farthest, Win explained. A 2016 winner completed 105 miles that way.

And yes, he did apply to participate in the televised American Ninja Warrior competition. He hasn’t heard back yet.

“That’s my dream. I hope they call me,” he said.

Obstacle course racing relies on many different muscle groups, and Win has created his own workout: Running with weights, rock climbing for upper body strength and a regimen of 50 muscle-ups, 50 pull-ups and 100 pushups. During the weekends, he trains at the Newbsanity course in Castle Creek.

Win competes at an obstacle course

Win competes at an obstacle course

This probably sounds torturous, but it’s not to Win.

“I do the training on the side. For me, that’s my fun time,” he explained. “I love it.”

When he’s not training, Win participates in campus life. He’s the secretary and treasurer for the International Student Organization, and also represents students on the college’s International Advisory Board. He’s taken part in Toastmasters as well, although he doesn’t have time this semester for it; maybe in the spring, he said.

In the classroom, he finds inspiration in science – and not so much in essay-writing. English can still be a bit of a struggle.

“I can spend the whole day doing chemistry,” he said.

Believe it or not, Win can stand still, too!

Believe it or not, Win can stand still, too!