Li Meizhen /CGTN Photo
On her first orienteering training, Chinese athlete Li Meizhen sank into frustration as the former middle-distance running champion swallowed a bitter pill – she came in last due to her unfamiliarity with using a map.
The "post-90s" girl, born in Longyan, southeast China's Fujian Province, won women's 800m and 1,500m races at the 2017 national youth athletics championships.
Late last year, Li was determined to devote herself in orienteering. It is a sporting event where competitors – individual or team – try to go from point to point in the shortest time using a map and compass.
Tao Dezhou (left) assigns training tasks to athletes. /Xinhua Photo
"Simply speaking, athletes should run based on the route marked by the map. They need to run fast and find the task site for checking quickly and accurately. Therefore, knowing how to read a map matters a lot," explained Tao Dezhou, the orienteering coach of August 1st Athletics Team of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
According to International Military Sports Council (CISM) regulations, the sport requires endurance, strength and sturdiness to run in the forest, excellent map navigation skills, and decisiveness.
"Before getting to know the sport, I thought it was quite simple – just running. Later, I found it was not easy," said Li. The biggest difficulty for her was understanding how to use a map. "I try to chase them every day. My teammates run once and I run twice." But the unyielding girl eventually caught up with others.
Li Meizhen gets training with her teammates for the upcoming CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, central China. /Xinhua Photo
Li injured herself several times throughout the nine months of training. Unlike running on a track, competitors running at high speeds in a jungle must contend with the complex terrain, while simultaneously navigating the best route.
"Orienteering is a must for soldiers. It's a dangerous sport – a game for brave people, which tests the willpower," said Tao.
"One's life may not be a victory, and I just don't want to lose. Orienteering resembles life which is always with fatigue and hope, difficulty and surprise," said Li, who is ready to make her orienteering debut in the upcoming 7th Military World Games in Wuhan, central China.
(With input from Xinhua)