By Maryanne Cdristiano-Mistretta
Annie Shen, 11, of Livingston, member of the USA Junior Wushu team represented the United States in the 11th Pan-American Wushu Championships, which was held from Aug. 12 to 14 at the City Bank Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas.
The international event occurs every two years and is open to 23 countries from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Teams competing this year were the national Wushu teams from Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Trinidad Tobago and the United States.
Shen won a gold medal in the Junior Female Spear Event, Qiangshu.
Wushu is Mandarin for Chinese martial arts, also known as Kung Fu and is short-listed to become an official Olympic sport in the 2020 games.
Shen has been training for three years at Wushu Kung Fu Fitness Center in East Hanover, owned by Allen Tjiong.
Tjiong says that Shen won because of her hard work, training, focus, and discipline. And great coaches that work at the center. Tjiong said “All coaches were former world champions and national team coaches. Annie made the U.S Junior Team last July. It was held in San Jose, California.”
Shen attends Mt. Pleasant Middle School in Livingston. She says it felt great to win the competition but she didn’t think it was going to happen.
“My competition was really good,” she says. “I didn’t think I would win. I was surprised. I didn’t think I’d come this far.”
Prior to the competition, the teams had to get their weapons inspected and Shen said that hers was too short. Another girl lent her a spear, which made her more determined to win.
“I think it gave me good luck,” she says. “Since she was so nice to lend me her spear, it was like a gift from God.”
Even though Shen trained every day, including Saturdays, with only Sundays off, she didn’t feel like she sacrificed to reach her goal because she was among friends who also trained. Though she quit taking ballet lessons and gymnastics in order to pursue Wushu. “It’s way more fun,” she said.
Shen enjoys Wushu for many reasons.
“It’s very good for your body,” she says. “And it’s really fun. I like to do all the different forms. Each form is different. Every person is different. Everyone has their own style. I do ballet, so I’m graceful.”
Aside from Wushu, Shen plays piano and enjoys arts and crafts. She looks forward to starting Chinese school again, but for now she enjoys her down time.
“I like to watch TV,” she says, “since it’s summer. When I go to school, I don’t have time for TV.”
As much as Shen loves Wushu, it’s not in her grand scheme of things. “I have other plans,” she said. “I think I want to be a teacher. It’s something I’ll always do.”