Australian wushu star Elizabeth Lim, 33, started competing in in 2007, and won Australia’s first ever gold World Wushu Championships medal in 2015 in Jakarta, in nanquan. At the previous World Championships in Malaysia in 2013 she also made history — winning her country’s first ever taolu medal — a bronze. She was Australian national champion in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, and is to date the most successful athlete of the Australian Wushu Taolu Team. Her bright personality, enthusiasm, and popularity makes her a true ambassador for wushu in Australia. Her watershed medal performances have brought Australia into the gold standard, and she looks to help train a new generation of Australian wushu youth with an eye on the future Youth Olympic Gemes.
Liz, who hails from Perth, Western Australia, always had an interest in martial arts and enjoyed watching wuxia movies throughout childhood. “I started learning Jiu Jitsu when I was in high school,” she says, “and then switched to Chinese kungfu (wushu) when I was 16. I have trained in Southern style wushu — nanquan, nandao, nangun — since the very beginning. And so in my first debut, early competitions, and up to now, I have always competed in Southern style events.”
Liz’ commitment to nanquan was as solid as her horse stance. “When I started wushu I learned nanquan,” she further explains, “as my coach was an ex-nanquan athlete. I really enjoy the Southern wushu styles – particularly the use of short and fast powerful movements for attacking and defense. My wushu school is WA Chinwoo Athletic Association. It is a Chinwoo school under the lineage of Huo Yuan Jia, so I also train traditional Chinwoo routines.”
Liz adds, “I have trained under the Australian national head coach Kee Tan since I started wushu, who has been instrumental for my wushu career. We have occasionally had visiting coaches to our training school in the earlier years, and I have visited China a few times in my younger days. However I have solely been trained by my coach in Australia.”
From Australian Champion to World Champion
Liz began winning national championships as a teenager. “I have thoroughly enjoyed competing at the Australian National and Oceania continental championships over the years,” she remarks. “It’s nice to see athletes training wushu across the country coming together with the same passion. The level of competition also has progressed and developed over time.”
“To me,” Liz reflects, “success as an athlete is achieving your personal best – not just during the event, but in the lead up and training for it. This includes pushing yourself through tough times, and picking yourself up when you have setbacks.”
We asked Liz about her favorite wushu experience. “The experiences are slightly different,” she says thoughtfully, “as the scale of competition is slightly different. Nationally – I am representing my hometown of Perth and state of Western Australia, and internationally – I am representing my country. Both are honors in their own ways. Definitely the best experience to date was winning the gold medal for Australia at the 13th World Wushu Championships.”
For an athlete, winning a gold medal at a world championships event is exciting enough. But winning your country’s first gold medal ever is another thing entirely, a watershed event shared with joy and excitement by Liz’s entire Australian team in Jakarta at the 13th World Wushu Championships. “It was such a happy experience and dream come true,” recalls Liz. “Standing on the podium with the Australian flag being raised and national anthem being played to the world is a surreal and cathartic experience. I had prepared for the event, just like any other competition event, and when I realized we had the gold medal, I was suspended in disbelief and cried. I was overwhelmed and so grateful to all that supported me – my coach, team, family and friends. My coach and team were really happy that we had won the first gold medal for Australia. When we got back to Perth, we celebrated our win by having a party with all athletes and coaches from our school. I felt overwhelmed and really happy. It motivated me to continue training and wanting to become a better athlete.”
In the decade since, Liz has watched the sport of wushu evolve, alongside the positive development of wushu in Oceana. “Competitive wushu has definitely progressed and advanced since I won that medal,” she says. “In the earlier days, resources were quite limited to learn taolu and nandu. However nowadays, there are a lot of resources available online which are free and accessible to all. It is amazing to see the world standard for wushu has also continued to advance across all countries.” One of the biggest changes since Liz became a world champion also comes with social media, making the vast distance between Australia and other continents just a tap away. “In the earlier days,” she notes, “we used to exchange emails, however nowadays, everyone is online now through social media.”
Regardless of many advances in the sport of wushu, Liz reflects that real world challenges still exist in Australia. “The biggest challenge to date is the COVID-19 pandemic,” she states, “which has sadly reduced the number of people in general participating in wushu, and reduced opportunities for competition. Wushu in Oceania has definitely developed a lot since I started training, however our progress is slow, as wushu in Australia is under-resourced. We do not receive funding from the government and all our competitions are self-funded. Most schools do not have adequate facilities (such as taolu competition carpets) to learn optional routines including nandu. We are always hopeful that this may change one day!”
“The greatest obstacle in my wushu career is funding,” Liz adds, “and it continues to be an obstacle. Competitive wushu for the Australian National Wushu Team is self-funded. We do not have grants or funds from our government or from private entities. So for us to fulfil our passion in wushu, we have to study and work hard to fund our competitions.”
Despite the challenges, and the sacrifices, Liz maintains an immense gratitude for her sport career. “The best part of being a wushu athlete,” she attests, “is being able to represent my state of Western Australia at national competitions, and represent Australia at international competitions. The best experience I have had so far was standing on the podium after winning the first gold medal for Australia. I am so grateful for my wushu team, my family, and my country for all they have given me, so the greatest reward to me was winning the medal for everyone. Travelling with the Australian team is amazing and is one of the fun things when going for international competitions. It’s a nice feeling that we all have all worked hard to compete and represent our country, and it’s nice to support one another.”
This close network became even more valuable when the Covid 19 pandemic struck. “Training during the COVID 19 pandemic was challenging,” says Liz, “as we were not able to go to the training hall, due to public health restrictions. We all had to be innovative with our training and mostly did body conditioning exercises at home. We also followed the IWUF classroom videos. Many of my teammates were able to participate in the IWUF Virtual Competition.” Liz herself won the second category prize in the 2021 IWUF Wushu Taolu Virtual Competition in nanquan.
Balancing Life, Goals, and Wushu Philosophy
Liz has worked as a pharmacist for over ten years in a hospital. She recently completed a Masters of Public Health and is now undertaking PhD studies in Public Health. “It hasn’t been easy balancing work and life with wushu training over the years,” she says. “I just try my best by having a good daily routine and being efficient with my time. Having perseverance when there are challenges and setbacks has definitely helped me pursue my goals, and eventually, over time, it does get easier. My family enjoys being physically active, and has also been very supportive and understanding of my wushu career.”
“I have trained wushu for so long,” says Liz, “that it is integrated in my daily life. I have gained a lot of skills and experiences which have been transferrable to other aspects of my personal life and professional working career. My wushu goal for the future is to eventually retire from competitive wushu taolu, and have a greater role in coaching and training younger athletes in wushu. My legacy is to simply pass the joy and positive experiences of training and competing wushu to the next generation.”
Liz is known by the sport community as an Australian ambassador for wushu in her country, and her passion to continue to promote the development of Australian wushu is evident. “The wushu world and my coach have given me so much over the years,” she says, “and I feel the next best thing after competition is to share, teach, and pass it on to the next generation of wushu athletes. I am currently teaching wushu to younger athletes at my school, and I was team leader for the Australian Junior Wushu Team at 8th World Junior Wushu Championships in Jakarta in 2022. I was really happy to hear the inclusion of it in the Youth Olympic Games. It is a testament of how wushu has developed and progressed as a modern competitive sport. Yes, hopefully we will have young athletes representing Australia in wushu!