The World Wushu Championships. How exciting, and yet scary at the same time. I had been chosen as one of the athletes to represent New Zealand at this event in November of 1999. Finally, I would have the opportunity to put all the training and effort to the test.
We arrived in Hong Kong, tired after the 10 hour flight, to be greeted with wide smiles from members of the Hong Kong Wushu Union, (the organisation running the event). Not a lot feels better than arriving in a new and strange country, than being greeted by friendly people who are there to help you and take care of you. These same people proved to be invaluable in lending assistance to the team the whole time we were in their country.
We arrived in Hong Kong two days prior to the competition start but our coach, Mr Orlando Garcia, made sure we spent that time productively, by ensuring we did our training. Each morning at around 6 a.m., the team met in the foyer of the hotel, walked to Kowloon Park, (around two mins away), and spent about 1.5 hours training. As a beginner at Taiji, it provided me with the opportunity to witness the large numbers of Hong Kong residents who practise Taiji and Qi Gong in the mornings.
On the evening of the second day, there was a welcoming dinner for all the teams who had arrived. This was great, as the Hong Kong Wushu Union also provided us with some entertainment. This included a traditional Irish dancing demonstration by one of our team members, and the male members of the New Zealand team, doing a Haka. What an awesome sight! They topped off the evening.
The third day in Hong Kong, we were able to actually go to the competition venue (Hong Kong Colosseum), to train. Walking into the stadium was incredible. The seating just seemed to go higher and higher and made the place feels incredibly large. That was the first psychological hurdle to get over. The second, was when you saw the other teams training. All of a sudden all that training you did, didn’t quite feel enough. After getting over that initial shock, focus was on what we were there to do. Try out the mats, and get the feel of what it would be like to perform on them. The afternoon was spent back at the Colosseum, watching the other teams training. Watching the China team was absolutely incredible. It is great to watch those whose National sport it is, do it with such ease. It also shows that time spent training and practicing, and the psychological attention that these athletes give to their sports, really does make a huge difference. They provided me with the incentive and motivation to push myself further, and to really strive to achieve something near what they have.
The evening of the third day was the official opening ceremony. It started with all the teams marching in, the official speeches, and the raising of the flags. Then came the amazing part – a display by the Shanghai Wushu Team and Tao Monks from Mount Wu Dang. If ever there was something to dream about achieving, what we saw here, was it! The skills these people showed us left me for one, dumbstruck! Then Andy Lau, (famous Hong Kong film star), sang a song, while the Hong Kong Youth Wushu team, did a display. Again, an inspiration. The time that these children must have put into their training could teach us all a few things.
All days of the competition were spent at the Colosseum, supporting and cheering on our fellow team mates. When we didn’t have any members competing, most of us went to watch the other events and the other teams. You need to watch them, to get a feeling of what really is entailed in this sport, and what it means to the people who are involved in it.
There were several things that I gained from going to these championships. One of these was the realisation that no matter what country you come from, or what languages you speak, we all have the common language that is Wushu. That is how many of us communicated with each other. Other things that I gained included the reinforcement of the importance of both physical and mental training. These go hand in hand, especially when competing at an International level. But if nothing else, the competition left me with an appreciation of just what the human body can achieve.
As a final note, I would like to express my gratitude to our coach, Mr Orlando Garcia. Without his skills, or his time and effort, and the considerable patience that he has with his athletes, I would never have got to go to Hong Kong, to compete in these Championships.