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Asia's biggest ski event comes to China
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-27 07:05

Vasaloppet China, Asia's biggest ski event, kicks off its fourth edition on December 31 in Jingyuetan Park of Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province.

Vasaloppet China - with origins in Sweden - is a X-Country ski event with races and activities for all levels and ages. During the five days of competitions, the ultimate endurance test - the 50 km race on January 2 - will no longer be dominated by the international skiers from abroad. The China National Ski Team returns from Europe to fight for the prize and the gold medal.

They return from a very successful start of the FIS World Cup season, with several strong results, which include Li Geliang's victory over the 2005 winner of the Swedish Vasaloppet (90 km) - Oskar Svrd - in a 42 km race in Sweden on December 18.

Vasaloppet China will see if Li is able to stick up to the challenge from the Swedish once again on home soil.

"The Chinese skiers' good results last season were noticed by the ski world. Everyone expects their big break to come soon," said Erik Unaas of Nordic Ways, the Scandinavian sports marketing company behind Vasaloppet China.

The day will also see some of the world's best sprinters race on a short track in Volvo Ski Sprint, an event set to mark a beginning of a spectacular week.

But Vasaloppet China is more than elite skiers battling it out.

Ridderrennet China - X-country skiing for disabled people - is an impressive display in how to overcome personal obstacles.

"It is a race with long traditions in Norway," said Eivind S Homme, minister chancellor at the Norwegian Embassy. "Ridderrennet China can show disabled people in China that they can triumph over great obstacles, and it is therefore of great importance for all disabled persons in China."

Throughout the week, students and children will also test the tracks - many on skis for the first time.

The growth of Vasaloppet China has been developing rapidly - from 750 participants in 2003 to about 10,000 participants this year, while Changchun has become the ski centre of China, highlighted by this season's FIS World Cup Sprint Season Final on March 15 - China's first ever.

Vasaloppet is a X-country ski race that commemorates Gustav Vasa's revolt against the Danish King Kristian 400 years earlier. It was meant to be an endurance test similar to the journey made by Gustav Vasa (King of Sweden 1523-60) between the Swedish towns of Salen and Mora, hence the name Vasaloppet - King Vasa's Race.

Over the 80 years that have now passed, Vasaloppet has developed into the world's biggest X-country ski competition, with 45.000 participants annually only in the Swedish event.

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