Reporter's Diary: My respect for military athletes went up a notch
By Wei Lynn Tang

It was yet another bittersweet moment for me as I completed my role in covering the 7th Military World Games.

I knew nothing about the games and admittedly had not heard of it prior to attending, but now I takeaway with me something more.

"Friendship through sports" is the motto of the games, and this really shined through in Wuhan, China. I saw it with my own eyes and felt it with my heart how new friends and connections are forged not just between the army of different countries but also within a country.

The military games is, after all, a multi-sport event – 27 sports, in fact. A military Olympics indeed it was. It's the scale of this event and the sense of a "big family" that differentiates it from other individual sports games, many athletes told me.

A few things stood out to me in my reporting.

First, many of the international athletes I've spoken to have competed worldwide, but it's their very first time in China. So, it was nice to hear what they think and have to say about the country.

Second, many of the athletes have their own lives and jobs outside of the military.


Cecilia Sjoeholm from Sweden is one of them. She works as a part-time chef in the Swedish Armed Forces.

"It has given me friendship, and that's the most important thing. I would not have done it for 10 years if it wasn't for my Swedish friends, people I love, and my friends in the naval pentathlon team from around the world. They're friends forever, and that's why it makes this sport so special," she told me.

I've seen how the females compete in the naval pentathlon, and boy, it isn't easy. It features five events: an obstacle course, life-saving swimming, utility swimming, seamanship, and an amphibious cross-country race.

"The core skill in naval pentathlon is the physical strength, the mental stability which is very needed out in the sea when it could be very cold, rainy, you're wet and tired,"  Swedish team captain Joakim Hiertner said.

Another naval pentathlon athlete from Poland, Edyta Korczak told me,  "It makes me feel like I have another family. I can compete with them, but we can be best friends. This is the best thing about sports."


Military capabilities and sports skills aside, it's also about the way different countries approach the sport.

It may be 23-year old Bianca Caruso's first time in China, but she has competed worldwide and with the Chinese for a couple of years now.

"I think Chinese are really humble sailors. They are really quiet, always focused on what they are doing. I think what we can learn from them is for sure because we Italians are... kind of jokers," she told me.

Likewise, Hu Rong from the sailing competition management committee said there is much that the Chinese can learn from international athletes.

"It's like their love for the sport comes from within, and they do things with feeling. When they align their boats, the 470s, they do it with attention to detail," Hu Rong said. "We Chinese can also learn how to just simply enjoy the process of competing from the international athletes that and their flexibility in changing roles on the boat."

Hu Rong from the sailing competition management committee said the Chinese team can also learn how to just simply enjoy the process of competing from the international athletes. /CGTN photo

Hu Rong from the sailing competition management committee said the Chinese team can also learn how to just simply enjoy the process of competing from the international athletes. /CGTN photo

Truly, many life lessons can be gained from sports.

 For example, I learned from Hu Rong that with sailing the most important skill required is adaptability.

"This is the number one thing I teach my students because when you have the ability to adapt well, you can change your techniques to navigate different environments. In sailing, adaptability can make up for what you lack in physical strength," she said.

Meanwhile, a sport you might not have linked to military sports is golf. Hence, the reason I pitched this story.

Nicolas Calvet, a golfer from France, told me that golf has many worthwhile life lessons that can be applied to in one's life and job.

"Golf has given me a lot, personally and in the job because it teaches you to be really humble and to be honest with yourself," Calvet said. "If you make a mistake, it's nobody's fault but yours. And in the military role, if you can't just look at yourself and say that's me; I'm this, and I have this; you can't go anywhere."


I am not sure, but I don't think many other sports allow you to spend over 4-5 hours competing with your small group of teammates.

As Arjan De Haas from the Netherlands said, "You can talk about their family, about their homes, what they do at home. We're all in the army, but we're in different parts of the army. So, it's nice to talk about it."

As the Games come to a close, I think it's important to take a step back and ponder why is there a need to gather military personnel on the field of sports?

According to Major Jan-Henrik Baeck, a board member of the International Sports Military Council (CISM), the most important thing for soldiers to have a platform to meet is that they set up new networks.

"You set up new connections with other people that you have not reached before," Baeck said.

"For instance, when I go to a competition, I meet some people from China and Korea, and two years later, I'm in an international mission, and I reach my same buddies that I've reached before, and we are on speaking terms directly. So, this is one of the best things with this community."

Now, how can I end this piece without mentioning the Athletes' Village! A place where I called my second home in the past two weeks.

To be sure, I don't live there, but almost 10-thousand athletes, coaches and officials from over 100 countries did.

It was pretty embarrassing that people I met who saw me at some of the games said to me at the village, "Hey Lynn how are your interviews going?" and proceeded to ask others around us if I have interviewed them yet. 

Well, I call it devotion to the job!

The Athletes' Village was literally my "second home" while covering the games. /CGTN Photo

The Athletes' Village was literally my "second home" while covering the games. /CGTN Photo

My respect for sportsmen and women just went up a notch. Sports can truly shape a person's life for the better as many athletes have told me, and can bring about friendship and camaraderie on and beyond the field.

I may not be a professional athlete who travels around the world, but I have my job where I can explore and bring these stories to all of you.

And this alone is enough for me. I had a great time covering the 7th Military World Games and I have, along the way, gained many friends globally and learned from their stories.

Also, I'm not sure if this already exists, but wouldn't it be nice to have a Journalist World Games perhaps? Gathering journalists of the world in the field of sports? Every profession needs an outlet to let loose and showcase one's talent and passion, after all.