Athlete of the Month April, 2022 | American Wushu Star- Lucy Lee (USA)

American athlete Lucy Lee has had a most remarkable and winning wushu career. Now only 21 years old, the Rockville, Maryland native has competed at four World Wushu Championships – in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 — and became a star fixture of the USA team. She has also excelled at three World Junior Wushu Championships (2012, 2014, 2016) and made stellar medal showings at the 2nd Taolu World Cup and 1st World University Wushu Championships.



Lucy’s accomplishments beyond wushu are also remarkable. She studied electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, was captain of MIT’s varsity track and field team, and was also involved with two dance teams on campus. Outstanding athletic ability, discipline, power and artistry have made this American wushu star truly stand out among a field of champions, and excited fans in the US are looking forward to her best performance yet when the next World Wushu Championships comes to Dallas in 2023.


Like many young kids, seeing the beauty and power of wushu live inspired Lucy to start training. “I was first attracted to the sport after watching a performance and thinking it was the coolest thing I had ever seen,” she says. “My parents took me to a local wushu school and that’s when I first started learning for fun.”


Lucy recalls her first time having to prove her skills out on the wushu carpet. “My first competition was in 2008,” she says, “when I participated in the US junior team trials. That was only three or four months after I had switched wushu schools to Omei, the school I trained with until I left for college, and transitioned from merely doing wushu for fun to training more frequently with a possibility for more. I got last place in everything. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t forget my competition forms, considering I had only learned them a few weeks prior. It was an amazing learning experience though, as I got to watch my teammates dominate, and see wushu at a different level than I ever had before.”



This impression created motivation that would lead to many years of hard work and dedication at her school, but in a few years she would be winning her place on the USA national team for both junior and adult World Wushu Championships. “My favorite competition experience,” she remembers, “is probably the 2015 World Wushu Championships in Indonesia. This was my second Worlds, but it was the first time I truly appreciated the high caliber of athletes surrounding me and the amazing way wushu could bring people together. In 2013, I had been too young and starstruck to understand what was going on around me. In 2015, I won a silver and a bronze medal, my first medals at Worlds, and that feeling was an amazing one I’ll never forget.”


Lucy notes that what makes these international competitions so special is the human aspect of meeting people from so many countries and so many backgrounds. “I like the people I meet at those competitions,” she says. “Everyone has a different backstory and path, but somehow, we’ve all ended up at this competition through our passion for wushu. It’s rare I get the chance to meet people that have had such different life stories than I do, and it’s also awesome to reconnect with friends I’ve made at past competitions and hear about how they’ve progressed since I last saw them. I also like the general environment of competitions, since it’s a chance for me to focus solely on wushu. In my everyday life, I always have other priorities to focus on alongside wushu such as schoolwork or other sports, but at competitions, wushu becomes my first priority.”


Lucy’s favorite event is nandao, which has become something of her signature event. The audience loves her energy, style and power, and her performance always manages to dazzle. “Personally,” she says, “I’d say it’s my best event, and I feel the most comfortable and fluid doing nandao than other events.”



She’s also well-known for her lively duilian routine, which she competes in with her little sister Mia Tian. “My little sister, Mia, is also very involved in wushu,” says Lucy. “She’s competed alongside me at various international competitions. She has also been very successful, and my parents have been our biggest supporters the entire time.”


Lucy describes how they grew up in wushu together. “Mia is 2 years younger than me. We started practicing wushu at the same time, and started at Omei when I was 7 and she was 5. We definitely have our own individual styles for wushu, especially because I practice Southern, and she doesn’t. Growing up, we rarely competed against each other. For junior competitions, we were almost always in separate age groups, and for adult competitions, we rarely competed directly against each other since we practice different styles. We are not very competitive against each other; instead, we support each other a lot, and the goal is always to make the national team together so we can travel to the world competition as a family.”


For Lucy, her sister Mia has been a pillar of strength, offering support and partnership. “I know I can always count on her to give me honest advice during practice, and I often ask her for feedback when I change my form or try something new,” Lucy says. “We competed in the duilian event at the 2017 14th World Wushu Championships (silver), and then at the 2018 2nd Taolu World Cup (bronze). We always liked to “fake fight” when we were younger, and choreograph little snippets of routines where we would dodge kicks and punch at each other dramatically. We decided to compete in duilian the first time we made the team together, which was in 2017 in Russia. Choreographing the routine was tons of fun, especially because neither of us knew what we were doing. On the other hand, I remember one time when we were practicing and kept missing the same hit, and we both got very frustrated with each other, so there were definitely both ups and downs. The thing I like most about duilian is how exciting it is, since it’s very easy to build off of the hype in the audience, and it’s also fun being able to practice and perform with someone else.”


We asked Lucy what the feeling is like to win a medal and see her flag raised up standing on the podium. “The feeling is incredible,” she responds. “Whenever I get to stand on the podium and watch the US flag get raised, I’m always reminded of how fortunate I am to be able to represent the country and perform so well for the nation, my wushu school, and myself. I’m also relieved that I performed to my full potential and didn’t mess up!” Lucy adds, “It’s an honor to be able to represent the US at competitions. Wushu has grown in the US since I’ve entered the sport, and I hope that the trend will continue so that it can become more officially recognized throughout the country and on the international stage.”



Lucy’s most recent experience at the 15th World Wushu Championships in Shanghai offered some dramatic ups and downs. “I really enjoyed the Shanghai competition,” she says. “Since we don’t have national training camps in the US, everyone trained on their own before traveling for the competition separately and meeting up there. I was in my junior year of college, so I was busier than ever, and didn’t train as often as I wanted to leading up to the competition. I also hurt my knee a week before leaving the US, which forced me to stop training. Luckily, it wasn’t serious, and I was back to normal once I got to Shanghai. Besides the shaky build-up, the competition itself was a ton of fun. As with all world competitions, it was awesome to see international friends I only get to see at competitions, and the atmosphere was electric and buzzing with excitement. The US team was young and relatively inexperienced, but everyone performed well and was very supportive of each other. Of course, the whole experience was capped off with Mia and me winning an individual bronze medal each, a happy ending to the competition.”


MIT is one of the world’s top elite universities, and once Lucy left for college her life, and her wushu training, underwent many changes. Thinking about some of these challenges as life moves forward, she remarks, “When I studied at MIT it was difficult to maintain a consistent training schedule. I was a captain of the varsity track and field team, and involved with various dance groups on campus, so I did a lot of general athletic training through those activities. Prior to competitions, I’d find whatever time I could to practice wushu. Usually when I train by myself I start by warming up and stretching, followed by basics, then a mixture of forms and jumps, and finally ending with conditioning. The hardest challenges at college were definitely finding time and space, and training on my own. There is always so much going on in college, and it’s difficult to find time to train amongst all that. Training without a coach was definitely a weird transition I had to make, and it’s hard to push myself when there is no one watching.”


For many wushu athletes all over the world, the spring and summer of 2020 and beyond offered even deeper challenges to their training in the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine time. “Unfortunately,” Lucy notes, “I was quarantined in my house since mid-March at the beginning, so I hadn’t been able to train fully for wushu. I would still go on runs and do workouts in my basement with Mia, but it’s definitely been hard to stay in shape during Covid.”


Lucy is quick to give credit to the wushu coaches who nurtured her talent and work for the past dozen years, both at home in Alexandria, Virginia and also in the many competition venues she traveled to around the world. “My coaches are Lu Xiaolin and Eugene Moy. I have been training under my coach Lu Xiaolin since 2008 at Omei, and she’s made me the athlete I am today. Eugene, on the other hand, was still an athlete when I first started training. In this way, he understood a lot of the difficulties I faced balancing wushu with other things, and was both a friend and a coach to me. As the national team coach, Eugene accompanied me to all of my international competitions and was always very helpful and supportive.”


Almost every athlete has his or her own wushu heroes, and asking Lucy about hers she replies with a smile, “I have too many wushu heroes to name, but the first ones that come to mind are Li Jianming, Chen Huiying, and Yu Te. I’ve met all three of them at various points in my wushu journey, and they have been inspiring, not only in their amazing athletic abilities, but also in their personalities. I want to mention Coach He Qiang as a wushu mentor, since he introduced me to nanquan when he came to the US and taught me my first optional form. Besides him, Colvin Wang has been a mentor to me since I began training back in 2008. Besides being a role model and one of the best wushu athletes in the US, he truly cared about helping us improve, and even returned to Omei when he could while he was in college to coach and mentor us.”



As the world continues to experience transformation, Lucy notes that some big changes are also happening in her own life. “College graduation was definitely bittersweet ,” she says. “On the one hand, I’ll definitely miss the 4 years I spent at MIT along with all the friends I made along the way. On the other hand, it was exciting to think about moving on to another stage in life! I’ve moved to Georgia. I’m here until July 2022 for technical training for my job, and then I might move back to Maryland. If so, there is the possibility that I’ll go back to training at the wushu school I trained at throughout my youth – O-mei Wushu Kungfu Center in Fairfax, Virginia. I think I will always be involved with the wushu community in one way or another, even if I don’t end up competing anymore as an athlete.”


Due to the technical training for her job, Lucy will not be competing in the World Games this summer. But don’t count her out of the race just yet — she has some definite goals for her next big competition in the USA. “For the future, she says,” I want to compete at the 16th World Wushu Championships in Texas, and win an individual medal. And no matter what happens in the future, I hope to always be involved in the wushu world.”


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