Even now, Seo Hee-ju (29, Korea Wushu Association) still gets a thrill when she thinks about what happened five years ago at the Jakarta International Expo in Indonesia.
After winning a bronze medal in the wushu turo event at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, she had been working hard for four years to win gold at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games.
On the morning of the competition, she arrived at the venue in good spirits, only to tear the ACL in her left knee with five minutes to go.
Seo recalls, “I was checking my leap for the last time and landing, and my knee turned. I tore my ACL, and I had to have two surgeries afterward.”
It’s hard not to be shaken after something like that.
“For a few months, I was depressed and could only think about (the injury). I couldn’t believe it because I had been training as if (Jakarta) was my last Asian Games,” Seo recalled.
Five years have passed since then.
Until last year, her injured knee still hurt, but now the pain is gone and she has regained her confidence.
“Wushu is not an Olympic sport, but for us, the Asian Games are like the Olympics. We’ve been waiting for five years, so we’re eager and greedy,” she said. “I’m so nervous that I can’t sleep already, and I’m thinking about the Asian Games every day.”
The Hangzhou Asian Games, originally scheduled to be held last year, were postponed for a year due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As a young wushu athlete, she was initially worried that the Games would be canceled altogether, but after another year of preparation, her physical condition improved.
“Time is definitely the medicine,” she says. “For a while, it was hard to think about my injury, but now I deliberately look up photos of it. At the Asian Games, I’m going to think about the situation before I compete and enjoy it,” she said.
Wushu is divided into two categories at the Asian Games: Santa, where athletes compete against each other, and Turo, where athletes perform martial arts on their own.
Seo is competing in two events at the Games: sword and spear. Her medal will be determined by combining her scores from both events.
“Of course, my goal is a medal,” says Seo. However, I aimed to not get injured because of what happened five years ago and to showcase my prepared skills to the fullest without any regrets,” she said, adding, “I think it would be emotional to be on the Asian Games stage again.”
He said he worked hard on his physical fitness to perfect his performance, and the improvement has given him a lot of confidence.
“In wushu, it’s all about the leaps. If there is any wobble here, you will fall from first to tenth place. The leap and landing are important, and now that my knee pain is gone, I land steadily. We have also prepared a variety of expressions, rhythms, and choreography.”
Seo, who looks like a hero in a martial arts movie when she competes, started practicing wushu as a child under the influence of her father, who owned a dojo.
People often ask her if she actually likes martial arts books or martial arts movies, but she laughs, saying, “To be honest, I like melodrama and romance more than martial arts.”
For Seo, the Asian Games will be her last.
“I’m retiring very late as a Korean female athlete. It’s also the first time I’ve played until this age. It’s the last time in many ways, so I’m looking forward to it even more.”
In the past, when Hong Kong movies were at their peak, there were many wushu dojos in Korea.
Now, the sport is practiced by a small number of elite athletes.
“I would like to continue practicing wushu after I retire, but honestly, there aren’t many opportunities for female athletes,” Seo said, adding that her seniors have switched careers to become trainers or employees of the Korean Sports Federation.안전놀이터
There is talk that the broadcasting industry is paying attention to Seo’s star power.
“I really appreciate that,” she said. But for now, I’m only thinking about winning a medal at the Asian Games,” she said.