Eight competitors from Ohio Wushu Academy in Dublin represented the United States in the eighth World Kung Fu Championships on June 14-18 in China.
They returned with 11 medals and a great sense of pride.
"The members represented our nation, state and community exceedingly well and were proud to show our colors and demonstrate the America spirit," said Master Sen Gao, an instructor who competed in the event for the second time. "I am proud of all of my students, whether they got medals or not."
Gao, a resident of Dublin who is 33 years old, said the athletes competed in two disciplines -- empty hand (known as form) and weapons. To be selected to represent the U.S. in China, each team member had to compete in local and national tournaments.
Competing in the men's 18-39 division, Gao won gold medals in tongbeiquan form and guandao weapon.
Other local team members included Dublin residents Vanessa Tang, 13, and Katie Lu, 12, Powell residents Hanson Ma, 16, and Michelle Huang, 11, and Worthington resident John Josephson, 74.
Rounding out the team were Chris Shepherd, 58, of Dayton and Zhenbao Li, 10, of Singapore. Li trains at Ohio Wushu Academy during summers when staying with his grandmother in Columbus.
They were among more than 3,000 competitors and 250 members of the U.S. team.
"I was a little nervous," said Tang, who earned silver in chaquan form and bronze in guandao weapon in the girls 12-17 division. "It was kind of crazy representing the United States as the only team from Ohio. But it was fun, too. We got to see how we rank against other teams in the United States. There aren't many schools here (in the Midwest), but there are a lot in California (and on the West Coast and East Coast)."
Huang was able to block out the atmosphere of being on such a big stage.
"There were a lot of people watching, but I wasn't nervous because I tried to focus on myself and not worry about (all of the spectators)," said Huang, who earned silver in chaquan form and guandao weapon. "I think that comes with experience."
Huang and several members of the team also were able to visit relatives in China.
"I had a good time and ate lots of noodles," Huang said.
Competing in the boys 12-17 division, Ma placed second in tongbeiquan form.
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first and I felt it in my first event, but got over it in time for my second event and got a silver medal," he said.
Ma said it was a rewarding experience.
"I was trying to text some friends, but it was tough because there were fewer applications available," he said. "But that was a small burden. We did well and came back with a lot of medals and that showed a lot about our school.
"We made sure we rooted for everyone on the United States team, even though we didn't know them. We were chanting 'USA, USA' and that was fun."
Even those who didn't come home with a medal had an experience of a lifetime.
Josephson began taking classes at 70 years old and was the oldest U.S. competitor.
"It was great fun and camaraderie and it was my first time in China," said Josephson, who competed in the men's 60-and-older division. "There were six rings in this huge place and it definitely was a great atmosphere. The team spirit was tremendous. Everyone was rooting each other on.
"We had 250 competitors and a contingent of over 500 people counting families and such. We had the largest group there and it was exciting. I feel great about it and I'm proof you're never too old to try something new and improve if you work at it."
Li and Shepherd added to the medal count for Ohio Wushu Academy. Li won two golds and Shepherd earned a silver and a bronze.
"For our students to do what they did this spring was great for all of us," Gao said. "We prepared for two or three months and it wasn't easy. It was hard work every day. Kung fu means supreme skill from hard work."