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Kunlun Red Star team hot hit on Russian ice

By Ren Qi in Novomoskovsk, Russia | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-06 09:34
Patrick Farrugia, head coach of Chinese youth ice hockey team Kunlun Red Star, instructs players during a quarterfinal game in Novomoskovsk, Russia, on May 28. REN QI/CHINA DAILY

The Chinese national anthem was played for the first time in a youth ice hockey league game in Russia a week before President Xi Jinping's visit to the country.

China's Kunlun Red Star youth team officially joined the competition, with 10 countries represented this year in the EuroChem Cup tournament in Novomoskovsk, a city south of Moscow.

From May 26 to 29, Kunlun played against five teams and managed two tough wins, including one against a Russian team.

Although the team failed to make it to the finals, the first appearance of the Chinese youth hockey club in Russia gave the players experience and fond memories.

Li Xinyi is the only Chinese girl on Kunlun, and it's her first time to play in a hockey game abroad.

The 10-year-old from Tianjin has been playing hockey for three years.

"I'm not quite satisfied with my performance," Li said after a win against Antwerpen Club of Belgium. "After playing against European youth players, I think I need to work harder in the future, both physically and technically."

She said few girls in China choose to play hockey, a game with aggressive physical contact, and in most games she is paired against boys.

"But I'm not afraid of them," she smiled. "As long as I manage to ... avoid injury, I can defeat boys."

Li's teammate Wang Yihan agreed that playing hockey is good for them, both physically and mentally.

The 13-year-old Wang is the tallest player on the team and learned to play hockey when he was in second grade.

Although Wang is still young, he has played in games in the United States, Canada, South Korea, and Singapore before coming to Russia.

Wang said the game taught him the meaning of "persistence is victory", because "no one knows the results before the final whistle is blown".

Chinese youngsters received a huge welcome from local residents. Every time their bus arrived at an arena, local students would gather around the bus and dance while waving Chinese flags.

Igor Nechaev, general director of MCC EuroChem in Russia, also welcomed the development of Chinese youth hockey.

Nechaev said in an earlier interview that the broader aim of the event is to encourage friendship and team spirit, as well as to promote a healthy lifestyle and build bridges between societies.

He said the participation of the Chinese youth team will help encourage the rise of winter sports in China ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

Youth hockey sports exchanges were enhanced under government support after Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin watched a youth hockey game together last year, said Liu Zhuozhen, general manager of Shenzhen Enjoy Fertilizer, the main sponsor of Kunlun.

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