Two and a half weeks ago I left on a month long journey abroad to compete at two international wushu competitions. First off I’ll try to explain briefly what wushu is since few people in North America have heard of it. Wushu is Chinese for martial arts. As a competitive sport, modern wushu is comprised of two disciplines, ‘taolu’ or forms and ‘sanda,’ which is sparring. I only train in taolu, the noncombative and performance- oriented side of wushu where we practice routines that involve movements such as kicks, punches, stances, and balances, as well as jumps and acrobatics.
This year was the first year that I made the Canadian National Wushu Team, and so it was also the first year that I was able to compete at the World Championships. I was extremely fortunate to also get the opportunity this past month to travel to St. Petersburg Russia to represent Canada at the SportAccord World Combat Games. There were a total of only 38 taolu wushu athletes invited to attend so I knew I would have tough competition, but I really had no idea what to expect.
The World Combat Games were without question the scariest two days of competition I’ve ever experienced. The seats in the arena weren’t filled but the fact that it was televised internationally—with a huge screen in the stadium—made it extremely nerve-wracking. The Russian crowd was also fairly quiet, hardly cheering when someone landed a jump successfully, so it felt as if the entire crowd could hear my breathing, and it was likely the case. As I watched my competitors warm up, I was already extremely intimidated because although there weren’t many, every single one of them was at such a high level. On the first day of competition I was so nervous I did not perform my best. Looking back on the second day however, I did feel more comfortable and I think the fact that everyone was so good made me improve and perform a lot better. After Russia, Worlds seemed relatively easy.
There were 80 countries that attended this year’s World Championships and one of the most interesting parts for me was seeing all the different countries, from Gabon to Mexico to Ukraine to China. Of course, the ability levels of the teams varied greatly, with China dominating, followed by the rest of the countries that have professional teams. The Asian countries, as well as a few other countries such as Russia and Iran, have government sponsored professional teams. Athletes are paid a small to decent salary and receive substantial rewards if they win medals at international competitions. Unfortunately in Canada this is not the case and as a result it is difficult to reach the level of the professional teams.
Since it was my first time attending, I didn’t have high expectations for placement, nor did I set any specific goals, other than to perform my best. I ended up placing about in the middle in each of my events, so I was pleased. However, I still have a long way to go before I can reach even the top 10 girls. I hope that in two years time I can compete again at the World Championships and be even closer to their level.
I’ve now joined two friends on their backpacking journey around Asia—with my 50lb suitcase!—for another week before I head back to Quest for December’s block.