Agatha Wong, martial artist and Lexus ambassador, on her athletic journey and what it takes to be a role model
A representative of the Philippines for the World Wushu Championships, Agatha Wong has made a mark in the local and international sports scene. The Bachelor of Arts in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs graduate of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB) has excelled in wushu at a young age, and has delivered stunning performances that won her and the Philippines gold medals at the SEA Games once in 2017, and twice two years later.
While women of her age are out shopping, dining out, traveling, being social butterflies, Agatha stays in the house to rest or at the gyms to hone her skills and talent.
“In wushu, the most important trait that a person should acquire is discipline,” says three-time South East Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist Agatha. The bemedaled poster girl of the Chinese martial arts explains what sets a good athlete from regular ones. “Another trait that should be developed over the years is resilience. Resilience and discipline go hand in hand when it comes to everything in life, especially in sports.”
True enough, her dedication and discipline toward the demanding fighting arts shows whenever she competes. Those who witness her in action are left in awe of her prowess.
The literal translation of word wushu is rooted from two Chinese terms, wu meaning “martial” or “military,” and shu, which translates to “art.” Competitive wushu branches out to two major categories, the sanda or sanshou (sparring), and the taolu (performance-based). The former is full-contact, while the latter is no contact, basically a display of form, patter, and technique. The 22-year-old athlete belongs to taolu. This category is further divided into disciplines namely Changquan, Nanquan, and Taijiquan. Starting martial artists fall under Changquan. “It’s like the default before anyone transitions to the other two disciplines: Nanquan and Taijiquan,” says Agatha.
After the initial Changquan, a coach evaluates what discipline an athlete is best suited for. A practitioner is transferred to Nanquan if they display strong muscular power and physical definition while those who display good flexibility and graceful movements are placed under Taijiquan. An athlete can also stay in the Changquan if the coach deems it.
Agatha started practicing wushu when she was just 12 years old. Back then, she was also doing ballet, swimming, and karate. Yet, wushu was her one true passion. “I couldn’t pinpoint what kept me going to the gym for training, even though it was really hard,” she recollects. At 13, she turned professional and began training more extensively. Today, with three gold medals under her belt, she pushes herself to get better and attain more. Because of her intense passion, she had been recognized and has even been made Lexus ambassador.
The young martial artist points out that there are various benefits to practicing her craft. Wushu augments discipline, patience, perseverance, mental preparedness, and the ability to adapt to difficult or stressful situations. “When I started developing the necessary muscle groups needed for wushu, I just felt so strong,” she says. Agatha might not look brawny, but she is confident that the sport has developed the endurance and hidden power of her muscles. “When you dedicate time developing your strength in Wushu, you will feel like you can do anything,” she explains.
Meanwhile, her mental fortitude and character have also been forged during her athletic career. “I learned to be more self-aware of other people around me,” she recalls. “I learned patience and, most important, discipline in everything I do—be it training, my education, and other commitments. I owe all that to wushu.”
In wushu, there is no such thing as perfection, although every athlete strives to reach whatever there is that can come close to it. “[Wushu] is a lifelong learning and it never stops. I think that’s what really keeps me passionate about the sport. It pushes me to learn every day, and I never get tired of it,” Agatha muses.
Her mindset, values, and work ethics resonated with Japanese luxury automaker Lexus, leading to a partnership in 2020 with Agatha officially becoming its brand ambassador. She was an excellent example of what Takumi master craftsmen are all about. The discipline needed to reach her level of athleticism is akin to the craftsmanship that goes into the construction of every vehicle. The desire to constantly improve oneself and the immense dedication required are the ingredients of a poignant kinship between the premium car line and the young Filipina athlete.
‘In the end, you will realize that everything you have done leading up to a single moment of success, everything you regretted not doing, not experiencing, or missed out on, all of that just fades away. And you will think to yourself, “This is why I chose this life instead of everything else.”’
Among Agatha’s dreams is to see wushu flourish in her own country and beyond. She wishes for children to beg their parents to let them do wushu and for parents to allow their kids to do wushu at an early age. “I want wushu to be seen by everyone as something beautiful, something difficult, something amazing, and something that requires a great deal of bravery to do,” she beams.
Her final advice to aspiring young athletes comes from her experience of sacrifice and handling her success. “In the end, you will realize that everything you have done leading up to a single moment of success, everything you regretted not doing, not experiencing, or missed out on, all of that just fades away. And you will think to yourself, ‘This is why I chose this life instead of everything else,’” she intimates. “When I found out I had won the gold medal, the tears just couldn’t stop flowing. I finally fulfilled my responsibility as a Philippine athlete, and it was worth it.”