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Goals in sight as China laces up its skates

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-30 07:14

Sport for the rich

Wei Ziyao, a member of Beijing's under-15 boys' team, has been playing ice hockey since he was 4, but it was only last year after he was selected to join Beijing's municipal sports system that he was entitled to government subsidies to cover his costs.

Wei's mother, surnamed Tian, said, "It's fair to say that every coin we earned has been spent on his training."

Even with more rinks being built, ice hockey remains relatively expensive in Beijing. A 90-minute session at a commercial rink costs about 300 yuan ($44), with extra coaching fees and a full outfit for a junior player costing at least 20,000 yuan.

Junior players train at least three times a week and have to upgrade their equipment every two years as they grow, said Liu from the Beijing Hockey Association.

To support her son's hockey dream, Tian said the family spends at least 200,000 yuan every year, including training, travel and accommodation, for competitive trips.

"It's just an average figure and the spending will dramatically increase once he needs further development toward making it a profession," said Tian, who quit her job to become her son's driver and practice partner.

Most of her peers have done the same to become full-time hockey moms, the 45-year-old said.

"You really have to prepare yourself to sacrifice your career, but seeing them grow and learn the virtues of teamwork and dedication through exercise is pretty rewarding."

To make ice sports accessible on campus, Beijing's education authority has been working since late 2016 with several companies to introduce artificial ice surfaces to pilot schools in the city's Haidian and Chaoyang districts. Artificial rinks can be assembled, dismantled and transported like mobile basketball courts, but with much lower operating costs.

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