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Laotian Athletes

These are the stories of every day Laotian athletes and adventurers.

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Kathy Sivongxay (@kathysiv ) discovered powerlifting three years ago after tearing her ACL. Luckily, the injury was minor and surgery wasn’t needed. During her recovery, she decided that her focus would be strength training/injury prevention. Because Kathy always wanted to learn how to use the barbell, she decided to seek out a trainer. Soon after her training began, she discovered that natural lifting was for her and has been doing it ever since. To date, her proudest accomplishment is competing the USPA powerlifting meet in Sonoma County this past November. She trained for over 12 weeks and placed 3rd in her category. Last year, Kathy trained for 3 months to pull a 300 lbs deadlift and before 2017 ended, she pulled 297 lbs. Another unexpected benefit that Kathy has gained from her fitness journey is the bond that she has formed with her nieces/nephew. Growing up, Kathy wasn’t really into fitness so she’s extremely happy that she is able to share this lifestyle with them and be a role model. Currently, Kathy is working on learning how to deal with the mental side of lifting such as staying motivated (when missing a lift) or simply enjoying the process. Kathy believes that if you make good choices for yourself, that the benefits from those choices will positively impact everyone around you. Don’t make choices based on what you parents want, what you friends want, or for the likes. Do something because YOU WANT IT.

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Repost from @donangtavanh - Not so quick life update: It’s been a dream of mine to make a lil’ book and now that it is getting pretty gosh darn real…I feel more comfortable to share with all of you that this is probably most likely GONNA HAPPEN! The book itself is a children’s book geared to kid’s in first/second graders and was inspired by my @laotianathletes page. My goal is to have this book written in both English/Lao so that grandparents will be able to read to their grandchildren and vice versa. So far, the process of creating this book has connected me to people from all over the country and it has even help me reconnect with some old friends like @colorme_katie ! Shoot, I even have a family from Texas helping me out with the translation (thanks @kristasaysanam ). This book was inspired/created with love and continues to be made with love. This experience has been a reminder to me of the kindness, love, and support that’s around all of us. I really hope that this book will be able to bring people together and inspire others to reach for their dreams. As you know, putting myself out there isn’t easy for me and now that I announced this...I have to TRY REALLY hard now to not done goof. But uh, all forms of encouragement will be accepted during this time and I AM REALLY EXCITED AND REALLY REALLY NERVOUS. For now, here is a picture of me and my illustrator @nowchee ! We worked on finalizing the story board last night. So. This. Might. Be. Real. Okay? EEK!

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Pumi Champa (@pumifit ) came to the United States at the age of six. She remembers being one of the smallest kids in her class and had to work extra hard in any activity that she participated in. She played soccer, tennis, and was extremely drawn to WWE wrestling. She believes that wrestling was the early spark for her interest in body building. It wasn’t until four years ago that Pumi got into body building after she realized that she was going to be on her own after her son left to college. She decided that she was going to take this time alone to focus on bettering herself both physically and mentally. While her son was gone, she spent hours reading, watching videos, and implementing body techniques to sculpt her body. Sculpting was only half of the challenge. Because Pumi grew up in a very conservative/traditional Laotian family, she was extremely shy. It wasn’t until she stepped out on stage in her sparkling bathing suit that she got over her shyness. The same thing that motivates her is what she fears – failure. Pumi is her biggest critic and is driven to not let herself down. She has been through some very tough times in her life and realized that the only thing in life that can be controlled is HERSELF. Her biggest accomplishment is placing top 5 in a nationally competitive division and starting her own company. Although there have been some setbacks in her company, she is still pushing forward. Pumi respects and recognizes the sacrifices that her parents/grandparents made to bring her to a country filled with opportunities. She wants others to realize and appreciate this as well and to take advantage of the freedom that we have to find our passions, to learn, and to create something good.

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Mason Bannavong (@mbannavong ) is a personal trainer and powerlifter from Amarillo, Texas. He’s been lifting weights since he was in his teens but didn’t start powerlifting until in 2017. The idea of competing didn’t even cross his mind until one day, he realized that his numbers were actually slightly competitive. After attending his first meet, he became completely addicted. One of Mason’s biggest hurdle is actually his drive to being a well-rounded athlete. Because he enjoys many forms of fitness, he isn’t able to dedicate all his time and focus on just Powerlifting. Mason’s current fit-venture is calisthenics which, to him, is on the opposite side of the world from powerlifting. His main fitness motivation is to simply realize his body’s true potential. As a personal trainer, Mason also knows that his clients put a lot of trust in him and in order for him to push others, he must first push himself. Mason is very passionate about his job and feels very lucky to have a career in which he is able to positively impact the lives of others while doing what he loves. His proudest accomplishment to date is being in the NASA league at 175lbs and being in the 181lbs Retro class division for Deadlifts. Mason’s message to others is, “You have always had everything it takes to be successful. Love your life and mold it into the one you’ve always wanted.”

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Jaden Anousai Saysanam (@jsaysanam16 ) is an 8th grader from Fort Worth, Texas. He participates in karate (1st degree black belt), football (starting receiver & cornerback), and lacrosse (faceoff specialist/midfielder). Though Jaden has many accomplishments in all of these sports, his favorite sport of all time is lacrosse. Jaden started playing lacrosse in the 5th grade after seeing the game on television. Though most of his friends were playing baseball at the time, he was really drawn to lacrosse because of how fast pace it seemed. Now, three years in, Jaden has a whole list of goals including: becoming an All-American Athlete, earning a scholarship, playing in a professional league, and getting on the US team. Jaden’s family works really hard to support him. They attend all of his games, drives him to practice, and pay for all of his lacrosse expenses (participation fees, coaching, equipment, and clinics). Jaden’s mother is his biggest (and loudest) cheerleader. It is her voice and words on tenacity, perseverance, determination, and faith that motivates him on the hard days. Because both of Jaden’s parents are entrepreneurs, they’ve instilled in him the idea that all dreams are possible (event he big ones) if you are willing to work hard. Currently, one of the biggest challenges for Jaden is getting enough training, and exposure due to the fact that lacrosse isn’t really popular in Texas. Despite this drawback, Jaden has been selected to complete in the 2018 Face Off National Showcase this December in New Jersey. Jaden’s message to others is to never be afraid to DREAM BIG. ***Vanesa’s note: Thank you Jaden for being one of the youngest participants in LA! I look forward to hearing about your game in December! KEEP ON DREAMING! Also, big shout out to Jaden’s mother (@kristasaysanam ) for recommending Jaden. Your parenting has given me hope that the newer generation of our community may eventually place a higher value on health/fitness/recreation.***

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Hello all, I just wanted to thank everyone who has supported @laotianathletes this far. This project started out as a passion project of mine in May of 2018 and today this page has reached 300 followers! I know this isn’t a big deal to most but it’s really cool/exciting to know that I am able to share these incredible stories with 300 people. Thank you so much to those who have shared their stories and to those who will be sharing your stories. I couldn’t be more proud to come from such a loving and supportive community. Kop Jai Lai Lai! 🙏🏽❤️- Vanesa ( @donangtavanh)

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Linda Chapman (@rinduuh ) started powerlifting/weightlifting five years ago after meeting her husband in the Navy. He taught her how to squat, bench, deadlift, and do other big strength movements. Over a year ago, she also picked up climbing through her husband/a mutual friend but she only started seriously climbing after joining the Climbers Coalition at Appalachian State University. Linda is drawn towards strength-based activities and is motived by pushing the limits of what her body can handle/getting stronger. She enjoys the rush when the bar is sitting on her traps for a squat and mentally pushing her doubts aside. In climbing, she loves seeing how her strength training comes into play. Although Linda has the full support of her husband and father, her mother and aunt don’t really understand why she lifts. To date, Linda’s proudest moment was participating in the Strongman competitions. She won first place in the novice division her first time competing and then second place in the same division in her second competition. Linda has also won first place in a little powerlifting competition at a Navy gym while she was deployed in Bahrain. Her biggest obstacle is balancing school and training. Currently, she is able set aside time to train three days a week for an hour. Her advice to others is to not be afraid to pursue sports (even if you don’t really have a community within that sport). If you have any inkling of an interest, do it!

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Mary Vongsaga’s (@Mary vee.lift) parents came to the United States from Laos in 1979. Mary was born in Chicago, IL and moved to Nashville, TN (her current hometown) around the age of three. Mary is a bikini competitor with the National Physique Committee (NPC) and started competing three years ago after going through a rough patch that pushed her to make some life changes. Little did she know that, her “rough patch” would eventually open doors to a whole new world of fitness. Even though the NPC is the most well-known amateur bodybuilding federation, Mary’s ultimate goal is to become an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Bikini Pro. Mary realizes that the judging in the sport is very subjective and in order to get past this, she constantly reminds herself that she is competing for self-improvement. With each competition, her goal is to beat herself from the last time. She seeks to improve both physically and mentally after every competition. Although Mary’s uncle is an IFBB Pro, she still doesn’t see a lot of Laotian people involved in this sport but she’d love to assist in changing that reality. Mary’s biggest hurdle is dieting. Since she is a chef, she has to really try hard to restrain her creativity during prep. Her message to others is, “No matter what your goal, make sure it’s YOUR goal - no one else’s. Nobody else needs to understand what you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice for it. Stay consistent. Sometimes things take time - trust yourself.”

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Latsaphone Koonpackdee (@dancefit_mamma ) also known to her family as, Menoi, was born in Vientiane, Laos and moved to Canada with her family in the 80’s. Currently, she lives in British Columbia, Canada and practices her activities of choice, Yoga (started in January of 2014) and Polefit (started in July 12, 2018). Latsaphone discovered Yoga after four months of immobility due to a disc slip in her back. After that injury, she became heavily addicted to OxyContin and T3s. That’s when she decided to do some research on alternative pain relief and stumbled upon Yoga in a Google search. Within 3 months of doing Yoga, she was able to walk upright and was even able to do the splits for the first time ever in her life. Even though Latsaphone was able to quit Oxy, she developed a new dependence on alcohol. During this time Yoga really helped her find clarity and was able to focus in on the important things in life. Along the way, she discovered the power of self-love and now she will be celebrating 5 years of sobriety on December 31, 2018. With Yoga and the support of her family Latsaphone was able to overcome all her addictions. Her message to everyone out in the world is to not be too hard on yourself. As long as you are doing your best, you are doing awesome!

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Eddie Daoreuang (@edaoreuang ) is a volleyball player from Rochester, NY. Eddie has been playing volleyball on and off since the 7th grade and is driven by his competitive personality/love of being in high pressure situations. Eddie constantly looks for opportunities to learn and carries a “student of the game” mentality at all times. His biggest accomplishment so far is winning the East Coast Conference Championship in 2018. What made it special was the fact that he was never subbed out during the tournament and was able to contribute every single ounce of his effort to help his team win. One important aspect that he believes makes him successful is ACCOUNTABILITY. Eddie believes in taking ownership, pride, and fault (good or bad) for every action he takes. Weather it’s in sports, relationships, or career, accepting the result(s) is builds character and self awareness. He appreciates individuals who are able to accept success/failures in a graceful manner.

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Krysada Phounsiri ( @bboylancer ), also known as Bboy Lancer, is a bboy dancer who was born in Huay Xai, Laos, immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 2, and was then raised in San Diego, California. Krysada has been dancing for 16 years. What keeps him motivated is the music, art, and cultural aspect of Breaking & Hip Hop. Although his family supports him, his younger Brother @eranetik has been his partner through this journey. His proudest moments are being part of the US in international competitions, connecting with the Lao Breaking Scene in Vientiane & Thakek, helping to push San Diego's Scene, and using his skills as a platform to bring people together for positive expression. The training, the trials, and the physical/emotional challenges are his biggest hurdles when it comes to dance. To him, dance is an act of vulnerability where you constantly get challenged to hold it down. Although dance is fulfilling, like anything else, you have to pay your dues and remain humble. His message to the Lao youth is to not be afraid to express yourself - dig deep, find what you love to create, and grind to make your passions a reality. And it doesn't matter what you do, bring that Lao flavor with you, always. Represent! Photos by (in order from L to R): @kienquanphotography, @roxrite95, @dr_wtpho @kevin_the_eel, @rahul.a.d, @peter.bxxiv

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Dolly Rossi (aka Rolla Boo Boo) is a mother, fitness instructor, and a Roller Derby player from Irvine, CA. Dolly started playing the sport in 2017 after coming across a roller derby event on Facebook. During that time, Dolly was looking for a sport that would challenge her/push her out of her comfort zone and roller derby definitely delivered. Currently, she plays for a derby team based out of L.A. called Angel City. Her number on the team is #33 - the age she started playing the sport. Dolly’s main motivation is to show her children that anyone can live an active lifestyle (even moms). She also feels like playing in a full contact sport makes her “the cool mom”. Her family (especially her kids) are her biggest supporters. Dolly believes that having the ability to pick yourself up when you fall is an accomplishment in itself. Her biggest challenge is mastering the balance between being a mom, working, and still making time to do the things she loves. Dolly actually gets a lot of criticism from others for being in this sport and has been told several times by others that she is a “bad mother.” Over time, Dolly has learned to block out the negativity and trust in her own judgement. The message that Dolly wants to send out is to not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and don’t let others stop you from doing what makes you happy.

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Kham Souvannavong (@sabaideekk ) is a runner who was born in Vientiane, Laos and came to the U.S. when she was 10 months old. Kham didn’t start running until after becoming a mother. What motivates her to run is her desire to stay active and to inspire her children. Khams first race was the Women’s Nike half marathon in 2005 but it wasn’t until 2013 that she started running seriously. After running a few 5ks and 10ks, she decided to challenge herself by signing up for the 2013 Rock n Roll Half Marathon in San Diego. It was after this race that she fell in love with running. When she runs she is able to escape the noise of everyday life. In a way, running is her therapy and everytime she runs she feels refreshed, relaxed, rejuvenated, and at peace. On average, Kham runs anywhere from 30 to 33 miles. To date, Kham has completed 30 half marathons, 5 marathons, a 50k, dualthon, Spartan, and a Tough Mudder. Her biggest accomplishment was completing The 2017 North face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k in Marin California. Her goal now is to run a 50 mile race and to reach out to the Lao Community about running. Kham believes that everyone should give running a try and that anyone who runs is a runner (no matter how fast or how far they run).

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Sam Phimphachanh (@sxphimphachanh ) is a Chinese-Laotian badminton coach/player. Sam is originally from Fortsmith, Arkansas but grew up Silver Spring, Maryland. At the age of four, Sam and his brother were both given rackets by their father and started receiving training in the sport. Sam comes from a family that is very dedicated to the badminton. In fact, his biggest supporters are his family members in Laos who are gym owners/badminton players. To date, Sam has been playing badminton for the past 15 years. His proudest accomplishment has been playing with high level athletes in California. Currently, his biggest hurdle is finding time to go to the gym and finding people to play with. There aren’t a lot of people in his area who are into the sport and those who are, only play the sport recreationally. A message that Sam would like to send to others is, “No matter where you are always represent your country.” Although Laotian people make up a small portion of the Asian community, it is important that we come together and appreciate what we have accomplished. Sam wants others to remember, recognize, and respect the hard work that our grandparents, parents, and family have done to help us get to where we are today and to have the opportunities that we have.

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Vivake Khamsingsavath (@viveforlove ), also known as Vive, is a professional dancer. Vive started dancing when he was 19 after seeing Travis Wall on So You Think You Can Dance. Through dance, Vive views himself as a student, aspiring to improve everyday. In addition to dance he practices yoga, Qi Gong, swimming, and tries to stay active in many other challenging activities. Vive has had the honor to tour the country, perform and teach overseas, perform on prestigious venues (including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Radio City), perform on television and music video, and tour with artists. There is not one accomplishment he cherishes more than the other, but he believes that all of these beautiful moments affirms that hard work, kindness, and patience pays off. Vive’s biggest hurdle in dance is measuring himself to his former self. As someone gets older in this career, the way they see, feel, and perform dance changes. Vive makes sure that he continually allows himself to evolve out of his former shell but sometimes this gets hard because most people want to stay comfortable and stick with what they know. Vive’s message to others is to trust yourself. He believes that he is very fortunate that at a young age he was able to trust himself and believed in what he had to offer.

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Phayviboune "C-Lil" Silimoungkhoun (@tomizuka_ & @bboyclil ), also known as "Yé", is a professional B-Boy dancer. C-Lil started dancing at the age of 12 after seeing a couple of guys dancing in his neighborhood. At first, his parents weren’t supportive of his dream because they weren’t able to see the benefits of his career. Over time, he proved to his family that dance had the potential to open many doors for him and was able to regain their support. C-Lil was featured in a Hollywood movie for his dancing and he participated in many dance competitions. The moments that make him really proud is when he gets to represent Laos on the big stage because his ultimate goal is to make Laos known to the world. C-Lil’s job requires him to frequently travel from one place to another and currently travels around Vientiane, Bangkok, and Shanghai. Currently, his biggest obstacle is finding time to train since he is always on the road. C-Lil’s message to others is to always keep your head up and work hard.

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Christopher Southichack (@mcspicy101 ) , known to his friends as “McSpicy”, moved out of his hometown in Dallas, TX to Los Angeles, CA at the age of 18. For the past four years, Christopher has been involved in a new bodyweight workout called Calisthenics. In Greek, Calisthenics means "beauty of strength." Although he has been seeing a lot of new faces in this sport, it doesn't appear as though a lot of them are Laotian faces. Christopher hopes that Calisthenics spreads to the Laotian community but is concerned that people might find it too intimidating since it's a new sport. Currently, his proudest moment was speaking in front of 1,000 people at a sporting event. Christopher wants the younger generation to not live life based on what others say. He believes that life isn’t about competition, who makes the most money, or what career you're in. To him, life is about being who you are, being true to yourself, and being happy. Although life is challenging it shouldn't stop you from discovering the world.

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