Many Cantonese speakers will say in their mother tongue “there’s so much work, I want to throw up”, when they are faced with a heavy workload. Of course, they are speaking figuratively, but in wushu athlete Nick Kiang Bo-kai’s case, he trained so hard that he literally did vomit. This became one of the most memorable moments of his career, and a strong reminder to him to press on – no matter what.
The incident happened three years ago, when Nick was training with his mentor Chow Ting-yu, a three-time wushu world champion. The 16-year-old said Chow is a very strict coach, so much so that he instructed Nick to carry on with his training after he threw up.
While some may think his training method is too harsh, Nick believes it has helped him develop a strong sense of self-discipline, which was crucial to his success over the past year. Last July, he came first in the Boys’ Jianshu Group B and second in the Boy’s Qiangshu Group B at the 7th World Junior Wushu Championships in Brazil. More recently, he bagged two gold and a bronze medal at the 5th Moscow Wushu Stars 2019 in February.
Last year’s winning streak provided a much needed confidence boost for Nick, who had been struggling to make the representative list for the past few years. The Tak Sun Secondary School student faced fierce competition within the team as he had to go through selection trials for each major tournament. He said he was disappointed that he worked so hard to make it on the list but was not able to show off his skills to the world.
“There were just too many older athletes in my age group, it was never my turn,” said Nick. “I thought, maybe it’s time to give up, but I just couldn’t leave the sport.”
When he is feeling frustrated Nick says he finds comfort in practising his favourite styles. Among the many different forms of the sport, the Form Four student, who has been training in wushu for eight years, says he likes Qiangshu the most because it is the hardest to master.
“In wushu, there’s a saying that goes, ‘it takes a month to learn Gwunshu, a year to grasp Daoshu, and a lifetime to master Qiangshu’,” said Nick, “so I’m quite proud that [Qiangshu] is one of my strongest disciplines.”
Nick now trains six days a week at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, which leaves him with little time to study. However, he has still managed to be in the top 10 in his form every year since Form One.
Nick says the key to excelling in the two seemingly clashing worlds is the self-discipline he’s gained from wushu.“I try to always pay full attention in class, so I don’t need to spend extra time catching up afterwards,” he said.
Because Nick turned 16 this year, he was promoted to Group A, an age group for junior athletes aged 16 to 18. The budding athlete said he will fight for the chance to compete at the 10th Asian Junior Wushu Championships in Brunei in August, with the selection trial taking place in early June.
“If I qualify, I want to go for the gold in the Qiangshu and Jianshu events, and reach the top three for Changquan,” he said.
In five years’ time, Nick hopes he can represent the city in the most prestigious wushu competition in Asia, the Asian Games. He said he still has a long way to go, but he believes as long as he is willing to train hard, he will always have a shot at the Games.
“Last year, our coach Geng Xiaoling who was 34 at the time, came out of retirement to compete at the Jakarta Asian Games. That’s proof that there’s no age limit in the sport, you just have to work hard,” he said.