ZHENGZHOU, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Tsering Norbu bends over and grips an elliptical stone, exerting all his strength to try to put the 160kg object on his shoulders in the stone-holding competition of Chinese Ethnic Games.
Roared on by a capacity crowd, the Tibetan Hercules trudges around the circle, striving for more laps than others for the win.
"Stone-holding is the purest strength contest in the northern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is over 4,500 meters above sea level," said Tacho Rinchen, deputy director of Nagqu's Education and Sports Bureau.
Living in such a harsh environment, 34-year-old herdsman Tsering has been practising stone-holding since he was a toddler.
"It's not just a trial for strength, as it also demands endurance and skill," Tsering said.
According to local records, the stone-holding competition first appeared in the Songzan Ganbu period (617-650), and has been listed as one of the nine essential skills for Tibetan men.
As living standards and medical conditions improved over time, the traditional event also increased in popularity and scope.
To inspire local people to pursue a healthier lifestyle, the local government has held sporting galas at village, county and regional level, encouraging younger Tibetans to take part in sports.
"Compared with past years, we now have more opportunities to participate in sports," Tsering claimed. "In the meantime, our rivals are also getting stronger."
Tsering is currently competing in China's Ethnic Games, making his fourth consecutive appearance in the nationwide sporting gala for ethnic groups.
"I'm glad to compete on such a big stage and meet my old friends from all around China," Tsering said.