Popular participation paves way for winter sport elites in China-Xinhua


Popular participation paves way for winter sport elites in China

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-20 20:46:45

by sportswriters Zhang Rongfeng, Yao Youming, Ji Jiadong, Yue Wenwan, Zhao Zehui, En Hao and Zhang Wuyue

HOHHOT, China, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Cui never imagined that she could enroll nearly 100 skiers in her club this season. She founded the club in 2018 with just five children signing up at the Aoshan Ski Resort in Baoji, located in the northwest of China's Shaanxi Province.

Wei Mingxuan, Zhang's 12-year-old son, has emerged as a product of her club's efforts. He is currently training in Hebei province as part of the Chinese youth ski mountaineering team, following his second-place finish in a national competition last year.

"I'm thrilled to see him blazing his path to international competitions, including the Olympics. He once shared with me his determination to pursue his dream relentlessly, and I couldn't be prouder of his ambition," Zhang said, brimming with pride.

Wei represents just one of the rapidly growing number of skiing enthusiasts among Chinese teenagers, especially in the wake of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The achievements of Su Yiming, who won the first-ever snowboard gold medal for China, and freeskier Gu Ailing, who secured two golds at Beijing 2022, have significantly propelled the popularity of skiing in China.

At the ongoing Chinese National Winter Games in Inner Mongolia, which takes place from February 17-27, many of Wei's contemporaries are showcasing their talents. The 12-year-old Patti Zhou is competing against seasoned athletes like two-time world champion Cai Xuetong and Olympic silver medalist Liu Jiayu, both in their 30s, in the women's snowboard halfpipe event.

Hosting Beijing 2022 has drawn approximately 300 million participants to winter sports, effectively boosting both the sports and related industries in China.

Derek Livingston, coach of Liu Jiayu, applauded the skiing facilities in China. "In Canada, we have only one world-class halfpipe. However, in China, I've encountered at least three world-class halfpipes, with another one under construction for the national team. It's impressive to see the level of support and resources China offers to its athletes," the 33-year-old Canadian remarked, reflecting on his retirement from 15 years of professional competition, which included two World Cup circuit podium finishes.

According to the China Ski Industry White Book, the country has recorded 20 million skiing visits over the past two snow seasons.

To further promote winter sports, the Tianjin municipal government established the winter and water sports management center in 2018. "Tianjin boasts excellent winter sports training centers, which not only support the training of ice hockey players, short track skaters, and figure skaters but also cater to local youngsters interested in winter sports," said Li Kemin, director of the Tianjin sports bureau.

The Inner Mongolia Ice and Snow Sports School, founded in 2020, aims to better prepare athletes for the National Winter Games as hosts. Thirty athletes from the school competed in the national games, indicating the potential for more professional athletes in the future.

The Fujian team's second-place finish in the mixed double curling competition at the national games, narrowly losing to Heilongjiang, was a surprise. "Following Beijing 2022, curling players from Fujian have had more competition opportunities, attracting more fans in the province. This has bolstered our competitiveness against traditional powerhouses like Heilongjiang and Jilin," explained Li Hongbo, a curling coach from the Fujian team.

The adoption of scientific methods and technology in training has significantly supported the development of elite athletes. "When I was younger, we lacked good resorts and facilities, making injury avoidance difficult. Now, we have a science study team that designs personalized training plans for each snowboarder, which has proven effective in rapidly improving our athletes' skills," shared Zheng Wenlong, a snowboard coach from Shanxi Province, who retired early due to injuries.

The Fujian curling team also benefits from scientific approaches. "Our curlers routinely review competition videos and conduct post-game analyses. This strategy quickly builds experience and trains our players efficiently," said Li Hongbo.

With the increasing international success and widespread national participation in winter sports, skiing and skating have become popular among young Chinese parents, who now favor these sports for their children.

"More and more parents are keen to learn skiing themselves. Although it may not be as popular as table tennis or badminton in China, the promotion of winter sports is certainly gaining momentum," noted Ning Qin, coach of the Jilin freestyle skiing moguls team.

Zhang Yiwei, the 32-year-old overall FIS snowboard World Cup winner of the 2014-2015 season, who finished second in the halfpipe at the national games, sees a promising future for Chinese snowboarders. "The training system in China is evolving. It starts with family-supported club participation and then progresses to government-supported training for elite athletes. This dual-track system is shaping up well," Zhang explained.

"Children begin snowboarding in clubs around the ages of four or five and, after a few years, those who meet the criteria move on to professional training. This approach is cultivating a pool of capable young skiers and snowboarders, ensuring a strong reserve of elite athletes for the future," Zhang concluded.