Thirteen-year-old Zheng Zhenxing, a middle-school student from Zhengzhou took the gold this morning in the Taiji men's competition, open to all ages, at the Seventh Annual Zhengzhou International Shaolin Wushu Festival, the most prominent event of its kind in China.
"My dream is to compete in the Olympics in 2008," said Zheng, a member of the Zhengzhou Wushu Team coached by Hu Jiping. The city of Zhengzhou in Henan Province is the home of the Shaolin Temple, considered the birthplace of both Zen Buddhism and traditional martial arts.
Zheng beat out competitors from all over the world at Zhengzhou Gymnasium to take the men's Taiji competition, one of several kinds of wushu competition open to men and women sponsored at the festival which will continue through September 5. The other top six winners in the Taiji men's finals were from China, Poland, Mexico and Hong Kong.
Wushu is not yet an Olympic event, but with Beijing's winning bid for the 2008 Olympics, wushu organizers on a national level are working on a presentation for applying to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC is expected to make a decision on this matter some time next year, according to Li Jie, director of the Wushu Management Center of the State Administration for Physical Culture and Sports in Beijing. Li opened the festival yesterday at ceremonies at a packed gymnasium with spectators and athletes from some 26 countries and regions.
"Whether wushu joins the Olympics or not, wushu will thrive," said Li who emphasized in an interview that it is the competitive branch of wushu that aims to be a part of the Olympic movement, not the traditional art from which competitive wushu has its origins and which is practiced world-wide for its psychological, spiritual and health benefits, as well as for self-defence.
"Wushu originated in China, but it now belongs to the world," said Li. But he also emphasized that he thought that competitive wushu could make a great contribution to the Olympic movement.
"The Olympics would become better because many of the sports in the Olympics today represent the West. Wushu represents the East. The medals of the Olympics are not what is important. What is most important is the exchange between East and West, and the better understanding that can contribute to world peace. Wushu contributes to this world exchange of culture."
Li mentioned that wushu was a demonstration sport at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and that three of those Chinese athletes -- two on the mainland and one in Taiwan -- are still alive and also dreaming of seeing wushu as a sport in the 2008 Olympics.
Meanwhile, at today's International Shaolin Wushu Festival, while young Zheng (who mentioned in his interview that he had started to practice wushu because he was in ill health and felt weak when he was younger) wowed both the audience and his fellow competitors with his power, grace and control in his performance of the 42 movement Taiji form, in the second ring --Mikio Shiraishi, a 60-year-old sushi chef from Orlando, Florida, became the center of media attention after his performance of a Chang-style Taiji form of his own design, requiring a constant and very low stance that would challenge a Taiji player of any age.
Shiraishi's performance won him second place, losing by only .03 points to Li Ni from China. Other top placing participants in the demonstration arena were from Taipei, Poland, the U.S.A. and Germany, but all participants in the demonstration area received plaques, emphasizing the importance of participation, not winning or losing, of traditional martial arts.
Shiraishi, who came from Japan to the United States to live some 20 years ago, said that he had practiced wushu under many teachers and was enjoying watching the other performers. He came with a group of 53 students from Florida, Tennessee, and Massachusetts from the Wah Lum Kung Fu School, one of some 11 delegations from the United States.
Other participating countries and regions included Japan, Gabon, Sri Lanka, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Korea, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Singapore, Holland, Australia, and Iran. A representative of the Italian delegation read the oath of athletes. All judges at the competition have been certified under international rules.
(China.org.cn by Sara Grimes and Zheng Guihong 09/02/2001)