Wang Qin celebrates after winning the 50km race walk title at the 7th Military World Games in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Oct 26, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]
While Team China tops the medal tables in most events at the ongoing Military World Games in Wuhan, athletics isn't one of them.
That makes any successes against their European and South American rivals extra special for the Chinese track-and-field contingent.
China's Yang Jiayu, who won the women's 20km race walk gold on Friday morning, is cherishing the experience of competing at the Games as she ups her preparations for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
"The Military World Games is a special event, and this time I'm competing not only as an athlete but also a soldier," said Yang after her victory.
"It's a very meaningful gold for us, as I won it in front of the home crowd in Wuhan. All I wanted was to produce my best performance for the fans.
"However, I'm not very satisfied with my performance today... I was hoping to push my own limit but I failed to make any big breakthroughs. I just came back from the World Athletics Championships in Doha last month, so my body strength hasn't recovered to peak condition. I'm not satisfied with my speed.
"The next step is to continue to grow and learn from the experience at my forthcoming winter training block. I will attempt to level up all aspects and then try to have a great performance at the Olympics in Tokyo next year."
Yang was not the only athlete still creaking from their exertions at last month's worlds. Wang Jianan also admitted to feeling below par physically. However, the chance to stand on the podium in front of the home fans proved too tempting for the long jumper.
"It's true that I'm pretty tired after returning from Doha but I keep pushing myself to strive for the highest standards in training and competition, thanks to the help and encouragement of my coach," said Wang after leaping to gold on Thursday.
"I've met many of the athletes at the Military World Games at many other competitions. So these Games are no different from other major international meets in terms of the difficulty level. Therefore, we prepared as best we could, just as we would for other events."
Coach Zhong Mei reckons the gap between Chinese long jumpers and the sport's powerhouses is closing at a quicker rate than ever.
"In recent years we have introduced many advanced training methods from foreign countries and allowed our athletes to train outside China," said Zhong. "So it's true that we are growing fast. Meanwhile, I really want to praise the mentality and the spirit that our athletes have shown. These factors have combined to result in a fast-developing Chinese long jump scene."
Indeed, the unwavering resolve of China's athletes has been much in evidence all week across a variety of sports.
An exhausted Wang Qin perfectly embodied that soldierly spirit after winning gold in the men's 50km race walk on Friday morning in a time of 3:51:56.
"As a Chinese solider, I'm very proud to win the gold in our own country," said Wang after crossing the line with the national flag draped over his shoulders.
"It's a long-distance race and, honestly speaking, it's very tough and you endure a lot of suffering. The opponents kept challenging me and putting pressure on me. During the hardest times, I kept telling myself that I must win this race in front of the home fans.
"I used tactics well but I was surprised when I finally got the gold. The rainy weather today was actually very helpful. The Wuhan locals who lined the track were also very passionate. They encouraged me to carry on during the toughest moments."
Feng Bin, who won women's discus gold, also acknowledged that her strong sense of responsibility as a Chinese solider was the key to her victory.
"It's very different to compete at the Military World Games," said Feng after retaining her title on Thursday. "I'm here representing the Chinese military. There's a much stronger sense of honor and responsibility. I had to win that honor.
"I was just a kid at the last Military World Games. Winning the gold was really unexpected the last time. Before today's competition, I just wanted to successfully defend the title and to win one more gold for our country.
"Winning here is a great start and I've had pretty stable performances so far this year. I hope to keep the momentum going and have an even better performance at the Olympics in Tokyo."