The Ageless/Timeless spirit is exemplified by Jujie Luan, the recipient of a gold medal in fencing at the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, California. Luan, born and raised in Nanjing, China represented her nation and was awarded the first gold medal in women's foil.
It is often asserted that adversity builds character. If so, Luan's upbringing corroborates this belief; Luan's five sisters and one brother lived a very meager existence in China. Her father was in the military and her mother did everything possible to provide for the family. Her mother cleaned homes and worked in a glass factory during the night. She would often take her family's clothes to work to dry them, since there were dryers which she could use during breaks. Her mother would return home in the mornings to help the children prepare for school. She spent most of the day cooking meals for her family. When her father could afford it, he would rent a bike and the children would have to run behind him while he biked to get exercise. Luan would have to jump over obstacles as part of this regimen. So impoverished were the Luans and neighbors that they would support each other by contributing fifty to one hundred dollars each month to a collective pot which was used when one of the members had a significant need.
Luan was not a child prodigy. She primarily competed in badminton and also track and field. She was not a sprinter but did well in longer distance competitions such as the 800 and 1500 meters. Luan was often approached by fencing coaches to participate in a trial. They obviously saw potential which she did not foresee. Luan openly admits that she did not want to become a fencer. She enjoyed track and badminton and had an aversion to putting the protective gear over her head. After many failed attempts to convince her to engage in fencing, two coaches came to the badminton training centre when she was 16 and insisted that she participate in a trial. She conceded only because her father ordered her to do it. Her father was the boss and she had to listen to him. Though she was apprehensive about the sport, she knew very early in her involvement as she states " Ultimately, fencing was the sport for me."
She was extremely successful in her first competition. With only months to prepare, Luan entered the Nationals in 1974. She beat all of the members in her club and other competitors to compete in the final match against an experienced seasoned coach. She lost, but had placed 2nd overall, a remarkable performance for someone so young and inexperienced.
Luan could have let adversity deter her success as a foilist. Having made the finals in a 1974 national competition, she was prodded by a female teammate to take sleeping pills to relax her for the upcoming finals. This led her almost sleeping through the competition. Her father had to break down the door to awaken her from her slumber. He gave her quite a tongue lashing and wanted to know how she could be so irresponsible. Luan eventually competed in a sedated state with limited success and later learned that the teammate who had provided the pills was trying to sabotage her performance. In 1977 during the World Junior Championships, a blade snapped and pierced her left foil arm. Rather than quit, her ferocious tenacity led to a silver medal and a path to continued success. Her dedication may be considered admirable and but in some cases ill-advised. She was often hospitalized due to a chronic kidney disease. Luan would often sneak out of the hospital in the middle of the night to run SO as to not miss any training opportunities.
Aside from achieving Olympic gold in 1984, she also won gold in the 1978 and 1986 Asian Games and the 1983 and 1985 World University Games. After competing in the 1988 South Korean Olympics for China, Luan took a 12-year hiatus from international competition and moved to Canada, establishing citizenship in 1994. Though not engaged in international competition, Jujie was fencing during this period and named six times Canadian Fencing Champion. With Olympic gold and remarkable success, one would expect a graceful retirement from fencing. Luan chose another path, qualifying and competing in the 2000 Olympic games held in Sydney representing Canada. "Amazing" is an overused term in sports, but it can be applied to Luan. Very few athletes could qualify for high level competition after a 12-year absence, notwithstanding the Olympics. One additional feat followed that was even more impressive. At the age of 50, Jujie qualified for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, once again representing Canada.
Jujie continues to derive satisfaction from the sport that she pursued for so many years. She shows no signs of slowing down. Her pursuits now involve teaching others to excel in fencing. "I have enough medals of my own. I want to see my students achieve as much as they can." In addition, she is motivated to help her own children succeed. "Two of my children are fencing competitively, and I want to see them go as far as I have." She is a demanding coach with high expectations. She initially was surprised by the reaction she received from the students she coached in Edmonton. Unlike China, many of her students felt that they had paid for the opportunity to train and did not have to adhere to her demands. Early on, she set them straight. She gathered them together and emphatically stated, "I am old, and I can beat you guys. If you don't listen I will go next door and coach." After that meeting, she had no more problems.
Luan admits to feeling like she is twenty years old. "Never stop! The world tells us that we have to settle down and go slower as we age, but it is not true. Find something you love to do and keep doing it." Obviously she has committed to her own advice. She does not have an established training schedule. Instead she relies on her demanding coaching schedule to be her fitness guide. "I train my students, give lessons, lead footwork and so on. Coaching is full time, so in a way I am always training." Ultimately she notes that the kids keep her young.
Additionally to stay fit, she engages in running, skipping and agility exercises which enhance her cardiovascular system. She does not diet. Instead she primarily eats home-cooked meals but will frequent a McDonald's, especially if she is in a hurry. She does take vitamins and realizes the importance of vitamin D for women, particularly in northern areas. Basically, she recommends eating healthy foods and not dieting, drinking lots of water and exercising often.
When questioned regarding traditional views on aging, Jujie encapsulates her philosophy quite clearly. "People who let themselves get old are the strange ones." She admits that she has gotten stiff as she has aged chronologically, however she can still compete with the younger prime athletes at the Edmonton Fencing Club due to the strategic mental aspects that she has acquired from her years of dedicated training.
Luan has found a master key to unlock an Ageless/Timeless lifestyle. "I work as a coach. I have to keep training to keep up with my students." It is that pride that allowed her to win Olympic Gold and compete in four Olympics. It is this pride that motivated her to challenge herself when others would have mentally and physically retired. It is this pride that will continue to drive Luan to compete in the World Master's Games in all three weapons, sabre, foil, and epee.