Jet Li (李连杰) caused quite a commotion when he uploaded a few black-and-white photos on his social media.
And for good reason though. They were throwback photos of the 57-year-old actor during his teenage years. Even before he entered the entertainment industry, he was already a star in his own right.
It isn’t exactly clear which year the old photos – which Jet Li captioned “My training days” – were taken, but it’s safe to assume that it was during his time in the Beijing Wushu Team. In case you didn’t know, he won his first national championship at 12. He won a total of 15 gold medals and 1 silver medal before retiring at the age of 19.
“My winning first place caused quite a sensation because I was so young. I was 12 years old, and the other two medalists were in their mid- to late twenties. During the awards ceremony, as I stood on the top step of the podium, I was still shorter than the 2nd and 3rd place medalists. It must have been quite a sight,” Jet Li was quoted as saying.
The star had the chance to perform in front of President Richard Nixon in the United States when he was in the Chinese National Wushu Team. Nixon, clearly impressed with Jet Li at such a young age, proposed, “Young man, your kung fu is very impressive! How about being my bodyguard when you grow up?”
Jet Li didn’t just turned down the offer but stunned everyone with his reply. “No, I don’t want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!” he said.
The martial arts star would then parlayed his fame as a wushu champ into his film career, eventually becoming the icon everyone know and love today.