Icy Sports En Vogue

With the Win­ter Olympics ba­ton be­ing passed to Bei­jing, Chi­nese peo­ple’s en­thu­si­asm for ice and snow sports has been fur­ther stim­u­lated.

China Pictorial (English) - - FRONT PAGE - Text by Zhang Xue

When the cur­tain fell on the Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics, the ba­ton was passed to Bei­jing. China set a goal of at­tract­ing 300 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants to ice and snow sports in its bid for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics. Af­ter a boost in re­sorts and fa­cil­i­ties for skat­ing and ski­ing, pub­lic en­thu­si­asm for ice and snow sports has ex­ploded. Win­ter sports venues have now be­come hot dur­ing the cold months.

Skat­ing Be­comes a New Fash­ion

In the north­east­ern Chi­nese city of Changchun, Jilin Province, the lo­cal win­ter is known for “thou­sands of miles of ice and snow in the North­land.” One of the most pop­u­lar win­ter ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion now is snow­board­ing down ski runs through pris­tine forests.

“Since it opened in 2012, the vis­i­tor vol­ume of our ski re­sort has in­creased by 50 per­cent year-on-year. Ski­ing, once an elite tourist ac­tiv­ity, has be­come a part of life for many lo­cal peo­ple,” notes Chen Yafeng, gen­eral man­ager of the Miaox­i­ang Moun­tain Ski Re­sort in Ji­u­tai District, Changchun.

A decade ago, a hand­ful of novices fall­ing down were the only peo­ple found at the ski re­sort, but to­day skilled am­a­teurs equipped with the most ex­pen­sive equip­ment avail­able are com­mon­place.

Ten-year-old Ma Heze from Ji­u­tai District is a VIP mem­ber of the ski re­sort af­ter four years of ski­ing and snow­board­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “It’s so fun to take my snow­board down the ad­vanced ski runs,” he grins. “Many of my class­mates also come here to ski.” Schools in north­east­ern China usu­ally close for about two months dur­ing win­ter va­ca­tion, and Ma Heze spent nearly half that time at the ski re­sort.

To meet the in­creas­ing de­mands of skiers, many re­sorts now of­fer night ski­ing. “Every day af­ter work, I drive here with my friends and spend two hours ski­ing,” says Li Hong­bao, a 39-year-old reg­u­lar. “It is re­ally ex­cit­ing and quite ad­dic­tive.”

Af­ter Bei­jing’s suc­cess­ful bid for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics, the ski com­pe­ti­tion venue in Chongli County, over 200 kilo­me­ters away from Bei­jing, in He­bei Province, has be­come a fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion for

Chi­nese skiers. By early 2017, there were 34 ski re­sorts in He­bei Province, cov­er­ing a to­tal of more than 230 mil­lion square me­ters. Most of these re­sorts are lo­cated in Chongli.

Ski camps have been the flag­ship win­ter ac­tiv­ity of Men’s Club, a train­ing in­sti­tu­tion in Bei­jing spe­cial­iz­ing in cul­ti­vat­ing boys’ in­ter­ests in sports. Every win­ter, the club or­ga­nizes win­ter camps in Chongli for boy skiers from 6 to 12 years old.

“Al­though many train­ing in­sti­tu­tions are of­fer­ing ski camps this year, our ski camps still fill up,” beams Zhao Xiao­hua, a teacher and re­cruiter for Men’s Club. With ma­jor ski re­sorts in Chongli get­ting in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, over­crowd­ing has be­come the norm, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to book rooms at lo­cal ho­tels dur­ing the busy sea­son. As a re­sult, op­er­a­tors of the ski re­sorts have be­come re­luc­tant to work with out­side busi­ness part­ners. Fig­ure Skat­ing: From Pro­fes­sional to Main­stream

With the pop­u­lar­ity of ice and snow sports, some sports once only ac­ces­si­ble to the elite are now widely pop­u­lar with peo­ple from all walks of life.

Zhao Yang, a 43-year-old re­tired fig­ure skater who was for­merly a mem­ber of the Jilin provin­cial skat­ing team, is now a coach at Bei­jing Cen­tury Star Skat­ing Club. Un­der the guid­ance of Zhao, Chen Hongyi, a trainee in the club, is hop­ing to one day make the Olympics.

Bei­jing Cen­tury Star Skat­ing Club, lo­cated in the Cap­i­tal Sta­dium, was China’s first skat­ing club. Its founder won sev­eral na­tional cham­pi­onships in fig­ure skat­ing. Presently, Zhao Yang teaches more than 30 stu­dents from age three to over forty in the club.

Al­though most of his stu­dents are am­a­teurs, some have skill on par with top-level pro­fes­sion­als. For ex­am­ple, Chen Hongyi won a na­tional cham­pi­onship in a ju­nior race. The 16-year-old girl is tall and slim and shows out­stand­ing tech­nique af­ter eight years of coach­ing by Zhao. In China, skaters of her cal­iber are usu­ally pro­fes­sional ath­letes in provin­cial or mu­nic­i­pal teams, but Chen is de­ter­mined to com­plete school and keep train­ing on the side. De­spite the long hours she de­votes to the ice rink, she still ranks in the top 10 of her class in aca­demics.

With Chen’s steady im­prove­ment, Zhao Yang is hope­ful that she will make her way to the 2022 Win­ter Olympics. “Since Bei­jing won the bid for the Win­ter Olympics, more and more chil­dren are now learn­ing to skate, and the gov­ern­ment has strength­ened its sup­port for ice and snow sports,” says Zhao. “In honor of Chen’s good per­for­mance in pro­fes­sional events, the club has re­duced her train­ing tu­ition and waived en­try fees for the games— good news for her fam­ily. We hope she will take this op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue her progress and even­tu­ally qual­ify for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics.”

“I’m par­tic­u­larly happy to see these chil­dren ac­quire es­sen­tial tech­niques lit­tle by lit­tle and ap­ply what they learn here in com­pe­ti­tions,” con­tin­ues Zhao. “Coach­ing is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from be­ing an ath­lete. Un­like my gen­er­a­tion, nowa­days chil­dren all like skat­ing, and young stu­dents show more en­thu­si­asm and savvy than in days past.”

Cam­pus Ice and Snow Pro­gram

“By 2020, the to­tal size of China’s win­ter sports in­dus­try will reach 600 bil­lion yuan,” es­ti­mated Li Yingchuan, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor-gen­eral

of the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport, in his open­ing re­marks at the 2017 World Win­ter Sports Ex­po­si­tion (WWSE). “By 2025 it will reach 1 tril­lion yuan.”

In 2016, China’s Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport is­sued the Ice and Snow Sports Devel­op­ment Plan (2016-2025). Ac­cord­ing to the plan, a “Cam­pus Ice and Snow Pro­gram” is to be or­ga­nized to sup­port teach­ing win­ter sports in­volv­ing the fol­low­ing tasks: com­plete the com­pi­la­tion of the Guide to Ice and

Snow Sports Cam­pus Teach­ing in 2018, com­plete train­ing of 5,000 full-time or part-time teach­ers for ice and snow sports by 2020, and in­crease the num­ber of pri­mary and sec­ondary schools fea­tur­ing ice and snow sports pro­grams na­tion­wide to 2,000 by 2020 and 5,000 by 2025.

Thanks to the im­pe­tus of such na­tional poli­cies, the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment of Bei­jing is­sued a plan in June 2017 to “pro­mote and pop­u­lar­ize win­ter sports in Bei­jing pri­mary and sec­ondary schools by 2025,” which will be fully car­ried out across the 16 dis­tricts and coun­ties of the cap­i­tal city. A series of win­ter sport ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing in­line skat­ing, floor hockey, curl­ing and other ice and snow ac­tiv­i­ties, will be in­tro­duced into cam­pus. Ad­di­tion­ally, stu­dents will at­tend lec­tures from Olympic cham­pi­ons and view ex­hi­bi­tions on the Win­ter Olympics. A to­tal of 52 schools of­fer­ing ice and snow sports pro­grams have been au­tho­rized by the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment of Bei­jing. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties, the num­ber of schools char­ac­ter­ized by ice and snow sports in Bei­jing will reach 100 by 2020.

Chen Liren, a mem­ber of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence (CPPCC) and pres­i­dent of the Com­pet­i­tive Sports School Af­fil­i­ated to Bei­jing Sports Univer­sity, once said at a CPPCC meet­ing: “The cul­ti­va­tion of sport habits among teenagers will in­crease over­all con­sump­tion of sport ac­tiv­i­ties, while sport­ing events will en­hance pub­lic in­ter­est in sports.”

When the 2022 Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics ar­rive, the time will come for young ath­letes now ski­ing and skat­ing through the snow and ice this win­ter to prove them­selves in the in­ter­na­tional arena. We are look­ing for­ward to 300 mil­lion Chi­nese win­ter sports lovers cheer­ing for them.

Fig­ure skat­ing coach Zhao Yang teaches pri­mary-school stu­dents. by Feng Jin

Fe­bru­ary 2017: A coach in­structs chil­dren at a ski camp held by Men’s Club in Chongli County, He­bei Province. cour­tesy of Men’s Club

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