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Wushu Debuts at Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade (Integrated version)

2017-09-12

                                                 

 

Wushu debuted in the 29th Summer Universiade Games in Taipei on August 26, becoming part of FISU’s exciting international, biennial multi-sport event for university athletes. At the Universiade, more than 7,639 young athletes from 24 sports and 145 countries/ regions converged in the spirit of friendship, fair play and competition. These budding citizens of the world celebrated global sport culture, and for the first time wushu became an official part of that celebration.

 

The “Universiade” is the name for these world university games, derived from the words “University” and “Olympiade.” It’s organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) as the premier international sporting event for college athletes. IWUF signed a cooperation agreement with FISU in 2015, and it was with deep determination that IWUF actively pursued getting wushu accepted into these games.

 

The President of Chinese Taipei Wushu Association, Yang Mei-jung, remarked, “We would like to thank the IWUF, FISU and LOC for their support in getting wushu into the Universiade, which is also sometimes called the “minor Olympics.” This is an exciting accomplishment, and the local government officials in Chinese Taipei also extended great support to this effort as well, for which we are grateful. Having wushu in the Universiade is not only meaningful to us, but also to global wushu development. It is a milestone.”

 

The Wushu Games Begin

 

In all, 134 young athletes from 30 countries/ regions participated in the Universiade’s debut wushu competition. From August 26-29, fans poured into the Hsinchu County Gymnasium to enjoy taolu in the mornings and sanda in the evenings. Athletes welcomed the afternoon to train, rest, and socialize in the Athletes Village where they mingled with their sporting contemporaries from around the world; this experience became one of the event’s real highlights for the Universiade wushu athletes, just as it was for the athletes of the Beijing 2008 Wushu Tournament nearly a decade ago.

 

                                              

Women's Taolu - Taijiquan: athlete Mengyao Wu

 

On the morning of the 26th the gymnasium was filled with melodies, grace and power as women's taijiquan became the first event to greet an enthusiastic local audience – an audience that roared when Chinese Taipei athlete Yi-Ying Chen stepped onto the carpet and showed her magic. While China's Mengyao Wu snatched first place, Chen won the hearts of her local fans and happily took third, edging out Malaysia’s Lu Yi Chan by just a few points.

 

Next, men’s taijijian offered a bit of déjà vu, as China’s Fanhui Kong won first place, and Yu-Wei Chen from Chinese Taipei took third, with Malaysia’s Choon How Loh grabbing second place this time.

 

                                               

Men’s Taolu - Taijijian:  athlete Fanhui Kong

 

With the stadium warmed up and wushu appetites whetted, the first round of sanda enlivened Saturday night. It was soon clear that Iran and China would dominate this event, but strong contenders from Korea, Chinese Taipei, Philippines, Russia and Kazakhstan would challenge this hegemony.

 

Day 2

 

Sunday started off with a lively women’s nandao competition, where China’s Liuyan Lai seized the top spot with an impressive score of 9.58. Men’s nangun kept the action fast and furious, and Chinese Taipei’s Kai-Kuei Hsu brought down the house with the top score.  Next on deck came the ever-popular changquan competition, starting with the men’s category, where another Chinese Taipei athlete, Tse-min Tsai, brought forth a new eruption of cheers and applause from the stands. His electric performance slid him into first place ahead of Korea and Iran, but he was soon knocked into second by Russia’s elegantly powerful Pavel Muratov, scoring a 9.45 to win silver. However, it would be Mengnan Li from China whose sparkling performance saw the highest score, 9.55, and the gold medal. The audience, however, could not have been more thrilled to see the bronze medal go to their local athlete Tsai.

 

                                                 

 Men's Taolu - Changquan

 

The morning’s finale came with women’s changquan, and a new battle for supremacy began all over again.  Here some serious star power came into play from Ukraine, Indonesia and Iran, but it was the most seasoned athletes – all former world champions – who would dominate. Russia’s consummate star Sandra Konstantinova took the lead with a 9.35, but Macau’s Yi Li soon followed, and blazed her way into first place with 9.51. The lovely Ayaka Honda gave a polished and inspired performance to seize third place.

 

                                             

 Women’s Taolu - Changquan

 

Day 3

 

On the third day of competition the battle for the combined taijiquan and taijijian medals would conclude. Fanhui Kong took first place in men’s taijiquan with a 9.67, followed by Hong Kong’s Jiahong Zhuang (9.52), and Ryo Murakami of Japan placing third (9.48.)  But when the dust cleared – or rather when the taijiquan and taijijian scores combined – the gold medal went to Fanhui Kong (China), silver to Yu-Wei Chen of Chinese Taipei, and bronze to Choon How Loh of Malaysia.

 

                                            

Men's Taolu - Taijiquan and Taijijian Combined

 

The hometown team’s “silver lining” echoed again in the women’s combined taiji medals, as China’s Menyao Wu took gold, Yi-Ying Chen of Chinese Taipei took silver, and Uen Ying J Mok, of Hong Kong, took bronze. A media frenzy rushed the press room after the medal ceremony, with a mass of local Taiwanese reporters covering their gloried athletes.

 

                                           

Women's Taolu - Taijiquan and Taijijian Combined

 

The subsequent competitions of the morning brought thrilling weapons action to the gym as women’s qiangshu and men’s daoshu got underway. Qiangshu’s star studded cast offered the usual beautiful yet contrasting spear styles of reigning wushu champs, and it was not entirely surprising to see Yi Li (Macau) take first place, Heeju Seo (Korea) take second, and Emily Fan (USA) gracefully leap into third place.

 

                                            

Women’s Taolu - Qiangshu

 

Daoshu thrilled the audience equally, especially first place winner Mengnan Li, who received a whopping 9.67 for his dazzling routine. Ilias Khusnutdinov displayed typical elite Russian power and style for second place (9.44), and Iran’s Amir Mohammedrezaae won over the crowd, and the judges, for third place.

 

                                           

Men's Taolu - Daoshu

 

Day 4

 

The morning of August 29th  unfolded exciting drama in the denoument of the combined nanquan & nangun competition. Sunday’s nangun event had brought cheers and shouts from a very engaged Taipei audience as local hero Kai-Kuei Hsu battled his way to first place with a 9.62, edging out Macau and Korea. Two days later, his fans held their breath as the nanquan began, seeing if Hsu could equal his nangun performance to take gold in the combined events. Hsu was sixth in the order, and he came out to the carpet on fire. He seemed to inhale the energy of the audience, and gave an electric, nearly flawless performance. But chasing him were Calvin Wai Leong Lee of Malaysia, Japan’s Y. Asayama, and Macau’s Junhua Huang, all of who also had high scores from the nangun event. Huang was in top form, and edged Hsu out in the nanquan earning a 9.57 – but it wasn’t enough to surpass Hsu’s combined score, and the Chinese Taipei athlete seized the day – and the gold medal. A joyful Taipei team and onlookers watched as Hsu proudly rose to the top podium and became Taipei’s golden wushu hero of the Universiade.

 

                                           

Men's Taolu - Nanquan and Nangun Combined

 

The battle for the women’s southern style events was likewise hard fought, though none could overtake China’s Liuyan Lai for gold. Malaysia, Russia and Iran vied for second and third, and ultimately Cheong Ming Tan of Malaysia won silver, and the powerfully elegant Fatemeh Heidari of Iran took bronze.

 

                                           

Women's Taolu - Nanquan & Nandao Combined

 

Jianshu and qiangshu saw a return of popular wushu athletes who have graced the medal podiums over the past several years at top-level events from the World Wushu Championships to the Taolu Cup.  Fans warmed greatly to wushu favorites Yi Li (Macau), Ayaka Honda (Japan), Emily Fan (USA), Elif Akyuz (Turkey), Heeju Seo (Korea), and Liumyla Temna (Ukraine.) Yi Li took gold with her powerful performances, Heeju Seo, won silver with beautiful style, and from USA, Emily Fan filled the gymnasium with her joyful, expressive, energetic performance to win bronze.

 

                                          

Women's Jianshu and Qiangshu Combined

 

Sanda Finals

 

The last day of competition’s sanda finals is always a crowd pleaser, and the audience in the gymnasium anticipated an evening of top-notch action that evening. The two women’s matches may have stolen the show, especially the 52 KG opening 3-round battle between Korea’s Hyebin Kim and Iran’s Arezou Salimighalehtaki, which turned into a real nail-biter. Kim won the first round with her daunting kicks, and the Iranian fighter took round 2 with relentless takedowns. The fighters were well matched, and Kim finally edged out her opponent in points in round 3 to win the gold. The second woman’s final, 60KG, saw an amped up crowd cheering on Chinese Taipei fighter Yi-Ju Lin as she fought China’s Xianting Jiang. The crowd roared as Lin took down her opponent multiple times, but Jiang prevailed on points to win the match in two rounds.

 

         

                                      Women's Sanda - 52 KG                                                                            Women's Sanda - 60 KG

 

Men’s 52KG event saw China’s Peng Yuan initially get knocked down by tough Philippines fighter Jomar Balangui, but Peng prevailed to win on points in two rounds. In the 60KG division Fuxiang Zhao from China landed a near-knockout punch to his opponent from Iran, Erfan Ahangarian, at first, but the Iranian’s strong wrestling skills proved too daunting to handle, as he took down the Chinese fighter time after time on his way to gold. His Iranian teammate in the 70KG division, Jafar Shirzadeh Popraghlo, likewise dispatched a valiant and feisty Ruslan Libirov from Kazakhstan with deeply impressive throwing and wrestling skills to claim victory. The last fight of the evening saw 80KG Iranian fighter Hamid Reza Ladvar dispatch  his Chinese opponent Shengnan Li with ease.

 

          

                                        Men's Sanda - 52 KG                                                                                Men's Sanda - 60 KG

          

                                         Men's Sanda - 70 KG                                                                              Men's Sanda - 80 KG

 

What the Universiade Means to Wushu

 

Adding the Universiade to IWUF’s family of events has a deeper and more implicit meaning for wushu athletes than merely having one more competition to win medals at. For many, university is a profound transition period in their wushu careers. Some may chose to focus more on their academics, and for them, the Universiade may be their last wushu competition – which makes it a meaningful, perhaps bittersweet, milestone and marker in their lives if they are retiring from the sport.

 

For others who will continue on in wushu, the Universiade offers a coming of age experience, a bridge to help take determined and dedicated athletes to the next level. For many, it’s also a bridge between the World Junior Wushu Championships and the World Wushu Championships as athletes transition from accomplished junior athletes to more polished adults on a world stage.

 

For IWUF this first Universiade wushu event is also deeply significant in making wushu a part of a global multi-sport games, and offering the opportunity to promote wushu to a broader audience.

 

After awarding the final sanda medals, Executive Vice President Anthony Goh remarked, “It is exciting to see that wushu is getting into another major multi-sport games, and it is special because we are reaching out to people that offer great potential. University students make up an elite part of society, and they will pursue diverse careers and travel many paths in the world. Wushu will help them to grow, and they in turn will help the sport grow into different segments of society. The Universiade offers our young athletes an opportunity to succeed in sport on a global level, and will also help maintain their competition career. This unique experience in one of the most respected universal games may likely even mold the person they will yet become.”

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