Strength, Determination, and Love of Magic at Grand Prix Vancouver

Posted in Event Coverage on January 31, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

Magic tournaments have always been a place where lifelong friends are made. Maryland resident Van Nguyen was just another player at the Super Sunday Series Championship last weekend. He played some great Magic, met some new people, and had lots of fun. Van, like many competitors in the Super Sunday Series Championship, stayed in Seattle for the week after the Super Series and was planning to drive up to Vancouver to play in the Grand Prix.

The Super Series was an amazing experience. There was lots of great food, plenty of drafts and Commander games, board games, bowling, and laughs. If you ask most players about their experience at the Super Sunday Series, you will hear nothing but great things.


Van Nguyen in his natural habitat

However, things are not always great. Van experienced something extremely traumatic the day after the Super Sunday Series. Sometimes traumatic experiences are just that: traumatic. For Van, his strength, determination, and friends helped pull him out of it. And his perseverance still got him to the only place he wanted to go: Grand Prix Vancouver.

Van was struck by a vehicle on Monday night.

The SSS group had stayed up late drafting in the hotel, and afterwards went out for some food. “It was around 1am. It was my idea to go out. I know it’s not my fault, but it’s hard not to blame myself. We crossed at the crosswalk when the light was green, when this car just came out of nowhere,” Van recalled.

Van had to react quickly. “So Rune (Vulpius) pushes Chris (Larsen) out of the way and he sees that the car is coming at me head on, so he just grabs my arm as hard as he can and throws me out of the way. Daniel Oppliger gets hit head on and flies twenty feet in the air and then the car runs over my leg.”

“I’m screaming, Daniel’s unconscious,” Van said, and they all thought the worst for Daniel. Van continued, “My leg is broken, it was the most pain I’ve ever felt ... but the whole time I was screaming for Daniel ... I know I’m going to be fine.” The ambulance took them both to the hospital. It was a terrible end to the great weekend.

Van’s only means of communication at the hospital was Facebook. On Monday he posted his story on Facebook along with some photos of himself in the hospital. “Eventually, friends started calling. I had someone call my mom and let her know. She doesn’t have Facebook, because, you know, she’s old.” But it wasn’t just his friends over Facebook that helped him out. He continued, “I had so much support from everyone in the SSS. Support from friends, family. Wizards of the Coast even sent a care package with packs, event decks, playmats, just everything. The whole time in the hospital was rough, but I didn’t want everyone to worry. I had to stay positive.”

“All I wanted to do was go to the GP. I knew I had to recover quickly so I could go. Knowing the GP was there gave me hope.” Van spent the next four days getting a series of operations. Things started looking up. Eventually Daniel was transferred to Van’s room, which was great news for Van because it meant that Daniel was doing okay!

Jason Choe, Van’s best friend from back home, had planned on flying to Vancouver to meet up with Van and play in the Grand Prix, but when he heard the news his priorities changed. He flew to Seattle and stayed with Van at the hospital. “Jason did everything. He helped me walk; he got me snacks; he talked to me. He was a psychologist, a nurse, a friend, a best friend. He was everything!”


Van Nguyen with friends Jason Choe and Danny Goldstein

Another friend, Danny Goldstein, who used to live in Van’s hometown in Maryland but is now a Portland resident, also played a key role in Van’s recovery. He helped him out with transportation and hotels as well as provide moral support throughout the week.

Van was discharged from the hospital on Thursday but unfortunately Daniel wasn’t in any shape to move yet. Van’s hope was for both himself and Daniel to get to the Grand Prix together to show everyone that they had made it. He soon realized that there was no way Daniel could compete in a tournament in his condition. But eventually, Daniel, got a bit better, was discharged from the hospital, and flew back to Switzerland.

Finally, after a four-day stay in the hospital that included lots of operations, learning how to walk again, and getting a cast on his leg, Van was able to make the drive up to Vancouver and finally got the chance to play some Magic. He way so happy, thankful, and excited.

When asked how he was doing, he replied, “I’m 3-2. I played in a bunch of side events yesterday and I knew it was going to be tough because of my health. I’m still in pain, I’m tired, I’m on medication. It has been an exhausting day.”

Van has fixed seating in the tournament. He’s wheelchair bound and the judge staff decided that it was beneficial to Van and to the other competitors that he stay at the same table all day. Since he’s in one spot, after each round all of Van’s friends visit the table often to see how he did and offer their support. Players from the Super Sunday Series Championship were ecstatic that Van made it to the event.

“The support I’ve been getting has been amazing. I didn’t even know him a week ago, and we hang out every round,” says Van, pointing to fellow SSS competitor, Alex Tamblyn.

The Super Sunday Series Championship was one of the best and worst experiences that Van will never forget. The friends he made through playing Magic were there for him throughout the tournament and throughout the most difficult time in his life. Van’s determination to recover from a devastating accident let him to doing the only thing he wanted to do: play Magic with his friends.

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