China's star athlete
Junming Song is the first Chinese athlete to enter the Red Bull X-Alps. Ahead of Chinese New Year (Jan 22) we catch up with the athlete to hear about his training, the Chinese hike and fly scene, and how he and his fans are looking forward to coming to the Alps.
Where are you?
I am in the geographic center of China - Xi'an, the ancient capital city of 13 dynasties, with a history of more than 3,000 years. My mountain is the Qinling, the famous mountain range that goes about 400km from west to east. It marks the divide between the drainage basins of the Yangtze and Yellow River systems, providing a natural boundary between North and South China. I have a flying site in the middle of Qinling.
Has it been possible to train with the covid restrictions?
Yes, it was possible. Hike-and-fly involves very little human contact right? Now almost all the restrictions are lifted.
How is training going?
Since the athletes were announced, I've been training every day following the plan made by my personal trainer. The early stage to December was mainly about regaining physical fitness.
What’s the focus now?
At the moment, I haven't done a lot of high-intensity exercise. I focus on skills together with a little strength building. The reason is to help prevent injuries caused by increased training levels later on. For example, how to reduce the pressure on the knees during running and hiking.
How many hours a week?
In the beginning, I was training 10-15 hours a week. Then very soon, I was training 15-20 hours a week, mostly trail running and hiking with flying. Sometimes I go cycling or climbing up all the stairs in the building (during covid lockdown).
Is it possible to fly in China?
Hahaha, when we talk about China, we really have to realize that it's such a big country.From the north to the south, one can always find good places to fly in China. Now the flying season has come to the south of China, I was just flying and training in Guangxi province, southwest of China, a few weeks ago, and I am the CPPL (China Paragliding Pilot League) champion of the year 2022.
Are your mountains good for hike and fly adventures?
Absolutely! I've already discovered a few routes, along big mountain ranges such as the Tian Shan, the Qinling, the Taihang, or between a few smaller ranges, such as the area from Inner Mongolia to Beijing. It's exciting, I hope I can help promote hike and fly in China.
Is the sport popular?
Paragliding has been in China for more than 30 years, and the number of pilots has increased greatly in recent years. If it were not for the pandemic, you would have seen many of them in Europe in the summer. Actually I think many pilots are planning to come to the Alps with me to watch the race on site!
Is the Red Bull X-Alps known in China?
Red Bull X-Alps has long been well-known in the Chinese paragliding community. Pilots like to follow and talk about every edition. Of course, the 2023 edition will gain more attention because it is the first time that a Chinese guy will be there!Hike-and-fly is just starting in China. I believe that more pilots will join after my participation in the Red Bull X-Alps. I hope to organize such competitions in China in the near future.
Is there anything you’re nervous about?
I don't feel so nervous, the initial excitement of being selected has also passed. My main target now is physical training. I know that is my weakness, so I have to make sure I train hard and be physically ready before the race starts.
What about the route?
I plan to travel to the Alps as soon as the route is announced. And I hope I can fly the route before the race.
What is your goal?
To finish the race.
Top image © Junming Song