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Chinese schools ushering in winter sports

By Mei Jia (China Daily) Updated: 2017-03-04 13:15

Guan Zizhao and some other students of the Zhongguancun No 2 Primary School were practicing ice hockey at Beijing's Wukesong sports complex on Feb 24 when they saw President Xi Jinping walking into the rink. The children ran toward him excitedly.

"He (Xi) shook our hands. He also gave me a shoulder nudge (greetings typically exchanged by players when they score)," Guan, 9, said.

On an inspection tour of the complex that will be used as a venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be jointly hosted by Beijing and Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei province, Xi told the children that he hoped to see some of them play for the country someday.

Xi told the officials gathered there that the Games have presented China with an opportunity to develop winter sports.

Since China won the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2015, the central government has urged schools in particular to include more winter sports in their curricula.

On Monday, the Zhongguancun No 2 Primary School held a special event during which Yang Gang, the headmaster, proposed to other schools in the country to together form an association of young volunteers to help with the preparations for the 2022 Games.

Chinese schools ushering in winter sports

In June, the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a national plan that includes assisting communities to establish winter-sport clubs. The plan aims to have 300 million Chinese participating in different snow and ice games by 2020.

In November, the General Administration of Sports announced the creation of huge supporting infrastructure in coming years. It plans to have at least 650 rinks and up to 800 skiing fields by the time the Games are held.

"Training young schoolchildren will lay the foundation to develop winter games," said Wang Jun, a sports and arts official with the Beijing Municipal Education Commission.

Guan, the grade-three student, practices ice hockey four times a week wearing gear that is almost one-third his weight. He said he enjoys playing the sport and hopes to win matches in future.

Since last year, he and other children have been training at their school, where the first simulated rink for a Beijing school - covering 800 square meters and able to accommodate up to 50 players - has been built.

The school's ice hockey team has 36 members between ages 7 to 12, including a girl. World champions in figure skating and speed skating are also invited to teach at the facility.

There are more than 50 other schools in the capital where at least one winter sport is being taught.

The city plans to develop 100 such schools by 2022, build 30 winter-game venues and train 5,000 teachers in winter sports, according to People's Daily.

"Since roller skating is less confined, we'd go with it first and develop ice skills from it in some downtown schools," Wang from the education commission, said. "As for schools on the outskirts where skiing is possible, we will train the students in snow sports."

In the past few years, northern China has shown increased interest in winter sports. Hebei, for example, has several skiing resorts that draw tourists.

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