Israeli Star Wins Her Nation’s First Historic World Wushu Championships Medal in Shanghai

When Israeli wushu champion Anastasia Chiriliuc won the gold medal in Shuangjian at the 15th World Wushu Championships in Shanghai it was her highest achievement in a lifetime of wushu, and the pinnacle of a near two-decade sport career. It was also an emotional and historic moment for the Israeli wushu team and the Wushu (Kung-fu) Federation of Israel. From having never medaled in a single WWC before, Israel rose to ranking 14th out of 87 countries in Shanghai. Anastasia says that when the judges announced her score, and when she finally realized she had won the gold, “I couldn’t believe it at first – it was a shock, and then immense excitement.” A short while later, when her flag was being raised over the gold medal podium and her national anthem was played, she says, “I felt a great honor and pride, being able to represent my country with such a huge success.”  Indeed, it was a remarkable success, and Israel’s first World Championships medal in history being gold made it all the more compelling. A former junior wushu champion, and many time top European champion, Anastasia at 24 has a distinct sense of self-possession when she steps into the competition ring. She had a good feeling in Shanghai; still, there were nerves. She recalls, “Before my performance I was a little stressed, but when I went out on the carpet I was very-goal-focused. I left the floor with a confidence that I did the best I could and maybe a little more.” Did she think it was good enough for a spot on the podium? “I was confident I would be in the medals,” she says, “but I was not thinking about being the champion, because that is a completely different thing. But I did, and my coach Alexander was very happy and proud.”

For her coach, who is also President of the Wushu (Kung-fu) Federation of Israel, Alexander Frenkel, it was the culmination of a lifetime of dedication to wushu, promoting the sport in a tiny country with extremely limited resources. He has coached the Israel team since 1991, and brought athletes to their first European championships in 1993. Seeing Anastasia ascend the top podium in Shanghai filled him with deep emotion, and fulfillment of longtime dreams. “It was an incredible feeling,” he says, “to see Israel come in at 14th place with a gold medal. Being one of the smallest teams with only two taolu athletes, and with a very small budget, this is a result that we can be proud of!”

Frenkel felt from the start, even at age 7, that Anastasia had something special. “I still remember well how she came into the gym, and after a year and a half of training I realized this girl will be a great athlete. Because from the beginning she was not just super talented, but also she was working very hard, so much so that at the age of 10 she became the top European champion in the 10-12 age category, winning gold medals in Changquan, Jianshu and Qiangshu.”

Indeed, as she grew up, Anastasia’s passion for wushu and her hard work only increased. She became a European wushu gold medal champion 15 times, a world junior wushu champion, and was also a 5-time traditional world wushu champion. “I dedicate most of my time for wushu,” she says, “for training, but now as I get older, also for judging and coaching several groups of kids.” Her wushu was also sharpened and refined by trips to Beijing to train at the Shi Sha Hai sports school, and she seized every opportunity to improve her skills each time a Chinese coach would visit Israel to lead a training camp.

Just going to compete in Shanghai was exciting in and of itself. “The experience was tremendous,” Anastasia remarks. “It was wonderful to see friends from all over the world, and it was a great competition with great organization. And the medal was on top of all this!” Returning to Israel, to her home in Rehovot, she had become a sudden celebrity, and interviews with newspapers and television followed, suddenly raising the buzz of wushu in this small nation.

Now a hero for the sport of wushu in Israel, Anastasia looks forward to helping her federation promote it more through her new athletic fame. The Wushu (Kung-fu) Federation of Israel has cast a wide net and made concerted outreach efforts, showing how a tiny country with few funds can make select, well-planned campaigns. They work closely with the Chinese Embassy in Israel and other organizations like the China Cultural Center, performing frequently in prominent media signature events that offer good publicity. This is a good example of how more modest wushu federations can partner with established organizations to obtain sponsorship and support and help them grow – and indeed how this support can change the history of wushu in a small country like Israel. Federation President Frenkel expressed gratitude for the support they have received, both ongoing and for the Shanghai World Wushu Championships. He says, “We’re very grateful to His Excellency, Ambassador Mr. Zhan Yongxin, and Ms. Tao Chen, the Director of China Cultural Center in Tel Aviv, who have helped a lot to promote wushu in Israel. They are the main sponsors of the Ambassador Cup, and they provided great help for Anastasia to be able to participate in the WWC in Shanghai. Together with the Municipality of Rehovot, and Ayelet (Federation of Non-Olympic Competitive Sports in Israel), they have provided enormous support for the development of wushu.”

The federation’s annual China Ambassador Cup is well-featured in Israeli media, and a good relationship with Israeli journalists around the country results in continuing articles and exposure. With this solid foundation in place, Anastasia did many interviews when she returned to her country from Shanghai, including Israel’s Channel 9 Sport channel, and newspapers like Yedriot Ahronot, making a golden publicity opportunity for wushu out of this gold medal.

As for her sport future, Anastasia’s historic achievement in Shanghai is both a fulfillment and an impetus. But a second WWC gold medal may well be within her sights. “I fell in love with wushu from a small age,” she says. “It was love at first sight. I really like to challenge myself and learn new things. My biggest challenge ever is to prove to myself every day that I can do better than yesterday.”

Awards

  • 2003 European Wushu Championships – 2nd, 3rd
  • 2004 International Wushu Invitational Tournament – 1st, 1st, 2nd
  • 2005 International Wushu Invitational Tournament – 1st, 1st, 1st
  • 2005 European Wushu Championships – 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd
  • 2006 Traditional world Wushu Championships – 1st, 3rd
  • 2006 Grand International Wushu Festival – 1st, 1st, 3rd
  • 2007 Grand International Wushu Festival – 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
  • 2008 Grand International Wushu Festival – 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd
  • 2009 Grand International Wushu Festival – 2nd, 1st, 1st
  • 2010 World Traditional Wushu Championships – 1st
  • 2010 European Wushu Championships – 1st, 2nd, 2nd
  • 2011 European Wushu Championships – 1st
  • 2011 World Traditional Wushu Championships – 1st, 1st
  • 2012 European Wushu Championships – 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
  • 2012 World Wushu Championships – 1st
  • 2012 Grand International Wushu Festival – 1st, 1st, 1st
  • 2013 European Wushu Championships – 1st, 1st
  • 2015 European Wushu Championships – 1st, 1st
  • 2015 Moscow Wushu Stars – 1st, 1st
  • 2016 European Wushu Championships – 2nd, 2nd
  • 2016 Moscow Wushu Stars – 1st, 3rd
  • 2017 European Wushu Championships – 2nd, 1st
  • 2017 Moscow Wushu Stars – 1st, 1st
  • 2018 European Wushu Championships – 1st, 1st, 2nd
  • 2019 European Wushu Championships – 1st, 3rd
  • 2019 Moscow Wushu Stars – 1st, 1st
  • 2019 World Wushu Championships – 1st

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