Discover China: Olympics ignites children's passion for winter sports

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-06 19:07:04|Editor: mingmei
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BEIJING, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a pink ski helmet, 12-year-old Ruan Jiahui tried to keep her balance while smoothly navigating her way down a ski slope in Yanqing, a suburban district of Beijing.

Red-faced and sweaty, Ruan and her 40-plus classmates have attended a skiing course every Tuesday at the Vanke Shijinglong Ski Resort, more than 40 minutes' drive from their primary school in Yanqing.

After three courses, Ruan mastered basic skiing skills such as stopping and turning. "I'm no longer afraid of the high slopes now," she said.

Ruan's hometown Yanqing was thrust into the global spotlight when Beijing and Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei Province won their co-bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in 2015. Yanqing is set to host the alpine skiing, bobsleigh and luge competitions during the games.

Although China is a latecomer to the world of winter sports, it has pledged to have "300 million people involved in snow and ice sports events" while it is preparing for the Winter Olympics.

The games have ignited unparalleled enthusiasm for winter sports among kids and teenagers in the country.

Every winter since 2014, Yanqing has offered skiing courses for around 3,000 local students at ski resorts. By the end of 2019, more than 16,000 students had been covered by the project.

"Most students in my school come from rural areas. They had no chance to participate in winter sports in the past. Skiing can keep their body and mind strong and ignite their passion for the coming games," said Zhang Wenxue, a teacher from Liubinbao Central Primary School in Yanqing.

Besides skiing, other winter sports such as speed skating and ice hockey have also gained popularity among children and teenagers. Around 5,000 students across Yanqing have learned to ice skate since 2017, according to the district's educational authorities.

On a cold afternoon, Yuan Xin, an 11-year-old primary school student, quickly put on her skates and knee pads and stepped out onto the Mengqiyuan ice skating rink, the first indoor skating rink in Yanqing.

Two years into the hobby, Yuan said ice skating is a cool sport, and she hopes to become an Olympic volunteer in 2022.

"This skating rink can not only stage competitions and training sessions of short track speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey, but also provide a platform for young people all year round to have fun on ice," said Ma Zhiyong, deputy director of Yanqing's sports bureau.

Drawn by the coming 2022 Winter Olympics, more children have fallen in love with skating and many talented potential skaters have been offered professional training, according to Meng Meijun, a former Chinese athlete in short track speed skating and now a coach in Mengqiyuan.

Tickets for the skating rink are sold out every weekend, reflecting the unprecedented growing trend of China's winter sports industry.

Take the country's winter sports equipment sector as an example. The industry aims to rake in sales of over 20 billion yuan (2.87 billion U.S. dollars) annually by 2022, growing by an average of more than 20 percent year on year, according to an action plan by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the General Administration of Sport of China and seven other government agencies in June.

"As the Winter Olympics approaches, we will strengthen our efforts to promote courses teaching winter sports in schools, allowing children to master winter sports techniques as well as acquire more knowledge about the games," said Zhao Jianmin, deputy director of Yanqing district's education commission.