Nhat Nguyen was six years old when his parents moved the family to Ireland from rural Vietnam in search of a better life.
“We started from nowhere. We had absolutely nothing,” Nguyen said, moments after making his Olympic Games debut on Monday.
“My parents had to work literally 24/7 for me and (my) sister just to be able to go to school, and to be able to afford food for us.
“They work in a Chinese takeaway. I’m not even joking – all day, every day. During lockdown I helped out a couple of days, but it’s tough work. It’s a 4pm to 1am job, and I can’t do that. I don’t know how they do it.”
Having made it on to the greatest stage in his sport, Nguyen was not going to let his family down at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza on Monday.
The 21-year-old showcased all of his athleticism with some incredible returns – including two in quick succession from his knees – during his opening 21-16 21-14 win against Niluka Karunaratne.
“Before I went out I just told myself, leave 100 per cent on court, win or lose,” he said. “I started off a little bit nervous, but once I got the first game and shook off the nerves I was able to apply my tactics.”
With such busy schedules, Nguyen could not even be sure if his parents were able to watch his Olympic debut from their home in Dublin.
“It’s like 12 noon in Ireland, so I hope they’re watching,” he said.
“(The takeaway) opens at 4 or 5 o’clock so they’re probably drinking a Guinness, because the pubs are back open in Ireland now. I will give them a call straight after and see.
“My parents have sacrificed a lot for myself and my sister, so winning that match, they will be proud. That’s what spurred me on during the tough moments.”
Nguyen plays 10th seed Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei later today in a Group F match. The winner will qualify for the knockout phase.