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A Memorable Win

6 weeks away from training together with a nagging cough which started in the 2nd week of our North American vacation has put a damper on the possibility of a good result in the second most prestigious championship of the year: the National Capital Dancesport Championship. My GP gave me a couple of asthma sprays to clear my bronchitis and even ordered complete rest on dancing training as the best cure for my bronchitis. When I tried to ignore his advice, I found out that he was correct in his prescription because I had lost but all my stamina and couldn’t finish one and a half minutes of Quickstep without coughing. And all the cough mixtures and Chinese tonic didn’t work for me.

Another week passed and I started to worry as my conditions had not improved. I went to see another GP whom I had acquainted in the dance studio. He understands how important it is for me to go to Canberra for this championship, so he ordered a number of tests: the X-ray came back with my lungs cleared but the blood test for whooping cough was borderline. As a last resort, he prescribed some codeine cough mixture which gradually stopped the cough but had the worrying side effect of constipation.

With 10 days remaining before the championship, I was keen to get back to my training. Luckily my skills were still there but it was clear that I had to improve on my fitness. I trained 5 hours a day for about a week and Magdalen couldn’t keep up with me and started to come down with the flu herself. It turned out that she was more unfit than I was. You should see us in the studio, coughing and gasping for breath. We were looking every bit of our age: 67 and 64. Our coaches were commenting that they couldn’t decide which one of us was sicker than the other but warned that we had to improve on our health before we could think of going to Canberra for the championship. In reply I told them that we would crawl to Canberra to defend our newly won national title if we had to. No one was going to take our national title away without us fighting every inch of the way. It was in this frame of mind that we drove down to Canberra on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday morning the alarm clock rang at 6:30 AM. Magdalen couldn’t get up, complaining about a splitting headache and dizziness. I thought the flu was still bothering her but she said she never had that nausea feeling before, thinking that she was anaemic. She told me that she couldn’t turn her head or even balance herself when she washed her hair in the shower. It was clear to me that she didn’t have enough strength to walk a straight line let alone compete on the dance floor for the whole day. 

In desperation, Magdalen thought she could fix her light-headedness with food. So she ate a big brunch, something which she usually did before she left home for competitions. Watching her eating the food was painful, but she managed to finish all of it. Half an hour later she vomited everything that she ate. I had never seen her so sick in my life. Privately I thought that was it: there would be no competition for the day.
After she collected herself together, she continued to do her make-up and asked me to do her hair. Normally she would be rushing here and there to do a thousand things to make sure that we got everything ready for the competition but she was so quiet that it was abnormal. I was about to give up all hope of going to the competition venue but I just went through the motion with the hope that luck might come our way and she could fix the medical problem herself eventually.

We arrived at the dance venue around 10 PM, changed to our dancing gear and got our bodies warmed up for the competition. We remember that our coach often said that if we set our minds to do things, it will happen. Psychologically, it is a case of Mind over Body and if we believe that we can do something we will happen. So we told each other that we had to believe in ourselves. Our minds were set: we must make ourselves to do the impossible.  

Slowly Magdalen began to turn around. To give herself energies, she kept on eating bananas and lollies and tried to look alert as she warmed her body up with stretching exercises. Two and a half hours later she was ready to dance. During that period I was very encouraging to her and had left the option of withdrawing from the competition open. It was to her credit that she didn't take up the option. She said that failure was not an option.

Looking at the footage of the earlier rounds, we now realised that we were struggling through the dances. There were 42 couples competing in each event for the national title and everyone looked alert and hungry to win. I could see in Magdalen's eyes that she was not about to give up this opportunity either. In an earlier round in the New Vogue sequence dancing I rushed over to the other side of the floor, started out of time, stopped to correct myself as our coach watched in horror. Luckily I made up in the music and got back into the dance. In an earlier round of the Modern Standard, I tumbled and fell flat on the floor while doing the Tango. I injured my hip badly and bruised Magdalen's ankle in the fall. Ignoring the pain we continued dancing and regained our composure. By the qualifying round of each event which took place between 4-5 PM we looked our normal selves and competitive. As usual, we survived the qualifying rounds and were put into the Finals by the judges.

The evening program commenced with a floor show by the world No. 1 couple, Arunus Bizokas and Katusha Demidova who are our idols. Watching them danced the same routines on the same floor was very inspirational. Of course, they are the best in the world for the last 4 years and I can see why. A strange thought came to me and I started to believe that I could dance my best later on in the night as well. 

I shared this thought with Magdalen and both of us agreed that if each of us could overcome our own shortcomings we could beat anyone and retain our national title which we won in Easter in the Jupiter National. All we had to do was to beat Magdalen Lee and Philip Lee respectively. It was with this frame of mind that we prepared ourselves for the Finals.

The New Vogue Final was the 15th event after Show Time and that gave us plenty of time to warm up. By this time we had been in the dance venue for 12 hours. Magdalen had very little to eat except for a few bananas, lollies and a couple of muesli bars even though I had made barbecue pork sandwiches with avocado. Normally she would gladly fill herself up with the sandwiches that I made but on this occasion she was worried that she would vomit everything up again.

The audience roared as we were introduced on the floor from the stage. We acknowledged the crowd looking confident and were ready for the competition. Still carrying the sun tan from North America, we were pleased to have finally made the Final 6. The music started and we danced lovingly to each other, looking soft and balanced as we did the 5 dances, our arm lines were symmetrical and musical. Looking at the footage afterwards we could have exaggerated our arm lines more and powered our movements better. However, I was conscious of Magdalen's physical conditions at the time so we couldn't have done more than we did. The audience loved what they saw and applauded on all sides of the floor. The judges studied our coordination and I thought they gave the approving look. I knew I had danced our best to reward our fans and friends and supporters. It was in this frame of mind that we conducted ourselves in the championship.

The Modern Standard Final came 20 minutes later. Normally this would have been enough for us to recover our stamina but not this time. We hardly gathered ourselves together and we had to be on the dance floor again. The Modern Standard style needs a lot of stamina and I did have my doubts whether we had the energies to go through the five dances, not just for myself but for Magdalen as well. It was to her credit that Magdalen came through the first 4 dances. By the time of the Quickstep we had used up all our energies that we got in reserve. From the footage of this dance, we did look tired and a bit uncoordinated. There was a sigh of relief on our face as the music finished. At the same time we knew that we had just lost the opportunity to win this event. We had given all we got but it was not enough to beat our opponents who have just turned 50 and qualified for the Masters 2 age category.

Our fans were supportive on the night. When the compere announced the results for Masters 2 Open New Vogue, the crowd roared with approval. We have finally made it into the history book of past champions! The Wah Yan spirit has prevailed. We are the first and only Chinese couple who has won in this Australian style of sequence dancing in the last 30 years. We were hoping that the Jupiter National title was the build-up of better things to come. The National Capital Dancesport Championship title was the coveted national title that we were after and we did it under extraordinary circumstances.

Our next goal? We will have a closer look at our Modern Standard dances to see if we can make it less strenuous particular the Quickstep. Age is catching up with us and we can't be hopping around like a 50 year-old couple. It was to our credit that we were the Runners-up of this championship and in view of the fact that there were 42 couples competing from all states of Australia, we weren't doing too badly. When you see the footage of our modern style you can be the judge. Our Modern Standard coach often tells us that the best aspect of our dancing is that there is plenty of room for improvement. So our goal for the next 5 years is to improve more on our skills. All of us live in hope. For us our hope is to win a national title in Modern Standard in the next 5 years. If it means that we have to give up New Vogue and concentrate on Modern Standard, we will consider it seriously.           – By Philip Lee

To view dancing competition videos:

2012 National Open New Vogue Champions Philip & Magdalen

Philip & Magdalen 2012 FATD Standard Final

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