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The man who came in from the cold

Updated: 2013-01-20 07:49
By Wu Yong ( China Daily)

The man who came in from the cold

Over the past decade, Gavert Waag has expanded vasaloppet, a traditional Swedish ski sport, from Jilin to the Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions. [Photos Provided to China Daily]

The man who came in from the cold

Sweden's Gavert Waag introduced cross-country skiing to China, reports Wu Yong, who discovers he's got plenty more China dreams to realize.

Gavert Waag is the 62-year-old who introduced cross-country skiing to China - a sport that didn't exist here a decade ago. "I dream that people from all walks of life participate in the sport and enjoy it. I don't know any better way for people to entertain themselves in winter," the Swede says.

In 1998, Waag visited the country to promote orienteering training at China's universities.

It was a trip that would change his life as on his return to Sweden he gave up his job and spent three years traveling around China.

For 10 years afterward, he promoted vasaloppet, a traditional Swedish ski sport, in Changchun, Jilin province.

Vasaloppet, or Vasa racing was named after Gustav Vasa, a 16th-century nobleman who called on Swedes to oppose Danish rule.

Under Waag the sport has expanded from Jilin to the Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions.

December is the busiest time for Waag, as it is when he organizes international competitions in Changchun for early January.

"Everybody knows the process is hard but I enjoy it and the sport. This is not for money, I just hope Chinese people like it too," Waag says.

"Obstacles are always there. The point is to stick to your goal, find a new way and keep going."

His contributions to Changchun have been noted and he has been made an honorary citizen of the city.

"Things have changed in the past 10 years and we have to keep transforming to keep up with the pace. But the importance of good contacts and friends never changes and I value my long and trustworthy friendships with Chinese."

"They are the key to local society. You can never fulfill your China dream without the help of local friends."

As standards of living improve, Chinese are paying more attention to leisure and health. Skiing is one way for people who enjoy the cold weather to do this, Waag says.

He gives an example, saying there were less than 10 ski resorts before 2000, but today there are approximately 300.

More than 10,000 participants and tourists from 32 countries and regions are participating in the 2013 Vasa, he says, adding he also hopes to add sports such as lidingoloppet (cross-country running) and vatternrundan (cross-country cycling).

He is also planning a cross-country cycling race between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"My China dream is so huge that I do not have time to think about retirement," Waag says with big smile.

Contact the writer at wuyong@chinadaily.com.cn.

Liu Yushi contributed to the story.

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