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Beijing Women's Boxing Team

Photographer: How Hwee Young

 

In Beijing's Shichahai sports school, sixteen young women aged between 15 and 22 years are training to become professional female boxers. They have hopes of one day competing in the world championships and even the Olympics, now that women's boxing has become an official Olympic sport since the London Games in 2012.

 

The Beijing Women's Boxing team has a relatively short history as women’s boxing has only become more popular in recent years. Formed in 2010, the team first started with eight members and has now grown to 16.

 

The young women train full time for six days a week, starting at 6.15am each day with physical training in the morning and technical combat training in the afternoon. They live and train at the school where food and accommodations are provided by the government for professional athletes. According to the team coach Tang Erming, it normally takes at least three years before one reaches top professional standards.

 

Members come from all over China and many are selected from sports schools in provinces outside Beijing or transferred from other martial arts sports. Twenty-two-year-old Wu Linghong from Jilin province is such an example. A rising star in women's boxing and a member of China's national team, she first started to learn wrestling and free combat martial art at the age of 12. However, after a serious leg injury in 2010, she decided to take up boxing instead. Wu says, 'I actually prefer boxing rather than free combat which is more aggressive and requires a lot of kicking. Boxing requires more thinking and strategy planning and more techniques than free combat, which is a good challenge for me.'

 

Other members joined the team simply for the love of the sport. No longer viewed as only a men's sport, women’s boxing has taken a prominence in China, as traditional perceptions of female beauty shifts from the frail and girlish to that of the strong and fit modern woman. Says 20-year-old LiXiaojing, who has been training for two years, 'I want to be a professional boxer as I like boxing and it suits my tomboy nature. It is good for girls to take up the sport as it makes us sunny and fit.'