YABULI, Heilongjiang - Ski jumping, one of the most exciting Winter Olympic skiing events, is struggling to survive in China's National Winter Games with hardly enough teams available to compete.
In the ongoing 11th National Games, only two ski jumping competitions have been held: K90m individual and team.
Three national athletes swept the individual medals for Tonghua, a team from northeast China's Jilin Province. All other individual participants were from Baicheng and Jilin, two cities also belonging to Jilin Province.
Only three teams are participating in the team competition, so every team will win a medal as long as they complete their jumps.
"If you pay more attention to the registration of athletes you could find that the athletes from Baicheng were registered in Tonghua before the Winter Games," chief ski jumping official Long Chunsheng said.
"There are only two cities in China where we can find ski jumping competitors," Long said, "so some athletes must be divided from the two teams to form a third to meet a minimum need for official competition."
Sun Jianping, Li Chao and Wang Yang have given surprising performance at the event. Sun achieved fourth place in individual competition.
China now has 14 professional athletes and about 20 young amateurs for ski jumping, one of the most spectacular and dangerous events of the Winter Olympics.
A shortage of training courses and investment has caused a bottleneck for ski jumping's development in China.
"Actually, we're just back from a training in Europe," said Tian Zhandong, a gold medalist in the individual event. "We have no domestic training courses in summer at all."
"Chinese athletes have no obvious disadvantages in physical condition and skills, we just need more attention and a course in summer," said Piao Xuefeng, head coach of the national team, who has participated in the event for more than 20 years.
"Many of the competitors are my boys and I cannot expect many more athletes from other cities to take up the sport," Piao said, adding that ski jumping has been nearly forgotten in most areas of the country.
But there is some good news for ski jumpers in China. A new summertime ski jumping course for training and competition has begun construction at Beidahu skiing resort in Jilin province.
"As far as I know they have finished half of the construction, maybe I can train the jumpers there this summer," Piao said.