When both of your parents are former world champions, the pressure can really be on to perform. But up-and-coming wushu star Jada Nicole He is certain she won’t live in the shadow of her high-achieving family members.
The martial art is certainly in Jada’s blood. She’s not yet hit her teens, but she is already a two-time junior world champion in gunshu – a form of wushu in which the athletes use a staff as a weapon. After taking her first title at the 6th World Junior Wushu Championships in Bulgaria in 2016, she successfully defended her crown at the following championship in Brazil in 2018.
Looking back on her international debut in 2016 still brings a twinkle to the preteen’s eyes. She had never expected her career to get off to such a flying start.
“I didn’t set any high goals for my first international competition; I was quite nervous actually. But I got so motivated to do well when my teammates shouted ‘add oil!’,” Jada recalled.
Growing up in a wushu household, the American School Hong Kong student began her formal training when she was six, having watched her parents coach other athletes for years.
Jada’s father He Jingde is an Asian Games silver medallist and world champion, who specialises in nanquan, nangun and nandao. Her mother Christine Lo Nga-ching, who now coaches the city’s national team, won multiple jianshu and gunshu awards at international championships.
As the daughter of two highly decorated martial artists, it is no surprise that all eyes are on Jada now she is in the international wushu arena. The young athlete admits she is under pressure to stand out every time she competes, and she wants to ensure her performance measures up to her parents’ standards.
“My parents are a bit strict and some of my schoolmates call me ‘World Champion’, which stresses me out,” the Grade Seven student said.
“When I don’t know what to do about my stress, my mom just tells me to ignore others’ opinions and focus on my own path.”
After turning 12 last year, Jada was promoted from Group C to Group B, an age group for those aged 12 to 16. To earn her spot at regional and international tournaments, she must maintain consistent results in local competitions to secure her ranking jn the city’s top two. Despite being among the youngest in her age group, Jada is confident she can come out on top and make the list for upcoming tournaments such as the Asian Junior Wushu Championships.
“Group B is a level up from Group C, so I think I need to readjust my goals. I hope I can reach the top 10 in overseas competitions.”
In addition to training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute six days a week, Jada also perfects her routine by practising it at home with her parents on Sundays. Her six-year-old brother Dragon – who also started practising the sport at a young age – also joins in, so you can imagine the pressure she feels to do well.
One might expect the scholarship athlete to continue practising wushu for a long time to come, given her family’s unbreakable ties with the sport, and her superb performance at the major championships. But when asked where she sees herself in five years, Jada says she may have quit the sport by then, because she wants to fill her life with more experiences than just wushu.
“Now, I don’t really have time to do other things, I don’t have other hobbies,” Jada said.
“I want to try different things in my life, to make it more memorable. After all, we only live once.”