The road to the 2008 Beijing Olympics continues for two Bay Area residents as they gear up for the 9th World Wushu Championship to be held in China in mid-November.
Wushu, translated from Mandarin Chinese, means “martial arts” and is most recognizable by its high speed, complex forms that often include aerial cartwheels and 980-degree spinning kicks that smoothly land into the splits. Famous practitioners include Jet Li and Jackie Chan.
The sport has been in Chinese culture for millennia, but the formation of the Wushu Research Institute during the 1950s in Beijing brought contemporary Wushu to other countries, such as the U.S.
Collin Lee, 17, a senior at Bentley High School, was selected at the USA Wushu Kung Fu team tryouts in July 2007 to represent the United States, along with four other men and five women. Shahaub Roudbari, 23, a recent Cal alum, was selected at the team tryouts for the Iranian Wushu team to represent Iran at the upcoming tournament.
The 9th World Wushu Championships will take place Nov. 9-11. Although Wushu is not an official Olympic sport, there will be a major international tournament that is going to be held at an official Olympic facility during the Olympic Games in Beijing next August. If Roudbari and Lee receive high enough scores at the 9th World Wushu Championships, they will be given the opportunity to represent their respective countries at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Wushu Competition, as the Chinese Olympic Committee is calling the international tournament.
Olympic hopes have Lee very focused; “Everything I have really done has been geared for these upcoming competitions… I have found trainers who specialize in weight training for athletes and I have even worked my school and social schedule around Wushu.”
The 9th World Wushu Championship will bring out the top competitors in the world, including Zhao Qing Jian, the All-Around Champion of China, along with top members of the Beijing Wushu Team, considered by many to be the number one team in the world because of the number of champions on the team.
Roudbari is well-known in Beijing for being the first non-Chinese person to perform with the Beijing Wushu Team in 2007. His performance was broadcasted on CCTV 5, a Chinese television network. He was given this opportunity to perform on Chinese national television after spending nearly a year training with the Beijing Wushu Team at the Shi Cha Hai Sports Academy in Beijing, China. Roudbari was unable to be reached for comment because he was busy with training in preparation for the upcoming tournament.
Lee and Roudbari are students at Wushu West, a school of Wushu in Berkeley, under Coach Patti Li, who could not be reached for comment either because she was in Beijing preparing for the upcoming competition. Isao Kogure, an employee at Electronic Arts (EA) and student of Wushu West for six years, said, “I am extremely proud of those two. I am especially proud of Shahaub because he travelled all the way to Iran to pursue his dreams. That took guts. As for Collin, well, he’s the Mr. Fantastic of Wushu.”
Kogure was making reference to Lee’s flexibility, leadership skills and his exceptional overall skill level in Wushu.
Kogure later said, “[Lee] has all the qualities of a future Wushu master. He’s humble, extremely talented and focused. The two competitors, Lee and Roudbari, have been teammates and friends for years.”
This upcoming competition has not fazed their friendship. They continue to train together and encourage one another.
“Wushu encourages camaraderie, teamwork and most of all, friendship between its practitioners, a quality that I feel is lost in many of today’s major sports,” Lee said.