'Greatest honor' for Chinese military pentathlon coach Li Chunmei
Updated 12:41, 17-Oct-2019
Li Chunmei instructs athletes in 2000m running training. /Changjiang Daily Photo

Li Chunmei instructs athletes in 2000m running training. /Changjiang Daily Photo

Yelling with relentless criticism, "Iron Lady" Li Chunmei is highly demanding of each of her athletes. Li is head coach of the China August 1st Military Pentathlon women's team and training has intensified as they prepare for the 7th Military World Games which begins on October 18 in Wuhan, China.  

Lu Pinpin, a young girl from the Shandong rugby team, found out about the military pentathlon team because of the military team's prestige. "Coach, I love the sport. I wanted to be a soldier at an early age and I'm sure I can make achievements if being selected," said Lu.

Li was unmoved at first. "Upon hearing (about) a rugby player, generally no one would dare choose (this type of athlete) due to a huge difference," said Li, "but she told me one thing, (she ran) 2 minutes 14 seconds in 800-meter run test and the score impressed me." 

Lu Pinpin practices obstacle running. /Changjiang Daily Photo

Lu Pinpin practices obstacle running. /Changjiang Daily Photo

Li ushered the young girl into the team with pressure. Once Lu arrived, the coach was dumbfounded.

According to Li, when Lu came at the beginning, there was a huge gap between her stamina and others. During the 18km endurance course, she followed 4km then squat on the field and could not stand up.

"If you don't practice long-distance running for a long time, you will be left behind... Only compare with yourself, and it's okay if you can make progress every day," said Li as she encouraged Lu. 

Given the military pentathlon a comprehensive sport involving five disciplines – shooting with standard rifle, obstacle run, obstacle swimming, throwing and cross-country, Lu Pinpin's advantage in the obstacle run stunned Coach Li. "She has great bounce and flexibility, which is extremely rare among female players. These are especially suitable for the obstacle events.” 

Athletes get endurance running training. /Changjiang Daily Photo

Athletes get endurance running training. /Changjiang Daily Photo

During practice, Li Chunmei identified Lu as the example. "She is the type of athlete who needs praising." She encouraged the young girl, "as long as you work hard, you can definitely break record in the obstacle events."

Highly-expected Lu participated in the world series for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2018 nailing two gold and two bronzes – the team's smallest world champion.

"She is a tough coach on the training field, while she is like our mother in daily life," Lu commented Coach Li.  

Li once as a military pentathlete has not got any chance to perform on world field. In 2002, she said farewell to the sport due to the ligament rupture during her training and became a coach. Athletes in her team have won 39 golds, 10 silvers and 14 bronzes in Li Chunmei's decade of coaching. “It's a joy to watch the athletes stepping on the podium with medals around neck and rising national flag, which is my greatest honor given by military pentathlon collective heroes," said Li.  

(With input from Xinhua)