Skiing still keeps Jilin man, 82, on track

By Han Junhong in Changchun and Zhou Huiying | | Updated: 2021-11-01 14:31
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An old photo shows Han Tongyuan skiing on the grass at a young age. [Photo provided to]

Even at the age of 82, Han Tongyuan insists on exercising daily on his in-line skates at Beishan Park in the city of Jilin, Jilin province, and is looking forward to the coming skiing season.

His skillful performance always attracted lots of attention, but few of his fans know that he was once a national skiing champion.

Han, a retired bulldozer driver in Jilin, was the 20-kilometer cross-country skiing champion at the first National Ski Games in 1957.

In fact, the former champion began to learn skiing to improve his ability to herd sheep.

Born in a village at the foot of Beishan Mountain in Jilin, Han began to help his family herd sheep since childhood.

It was really difficult to follow the sheep on snow-covered mountain areas, so Han made a simple snowboard to practice skiing.

Every day he skied dozens of kilometers and several months later, he could move faster than the sheep.

Due to his excellent performance at the city's skiing competition, he was selected to join the city's skiing team.

After winning his second championship at the second National Ski Games in 1958, he had a desire to participate in the Winter Olympics.

"At that time, we didn't know the skill level of foreign athletes till some athletes came to Jilin from Soviet Union for an exchange experience in 1959," he said. "They were well-equipped and skilled, but I had the confidence to achieve good results if I could participate in international competitions."

Han didn't get the chance till he retired from the skiing team in 1963 and then he became a bulldozer driver. However, he never gave up on his enthusiasm for skiing.

Every winter, Han goes to the professional ski resort in the city and in other seasons, he glides on his in-line skates in the park's tarmac ramp.

"Over the past decades, I have witnessed the great changes in snow and ice sports in China," he said. "There are more well-equipped ski resorts and snow and ice sports have become popular choices for sports enthusiasts."

With the coming of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Han gave his blessing and sent his good wishes to the young athletes.

"I hope to see more young athletes win honor for our country," he said. "Furthermore, I hope more people can participate in snow and ice sports, which can help them stay healthy."

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