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On skates or skis, senior athlete persists

By LIU MINGTAI in Changchun and ZHOU HUIYING | China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-29 09:24
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Han Tongyuan shows his skis at his home in the city of Jilin in Jilin province. ZHANG YICHI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Even now at the age of 82, Han Tongyuan still exercises every day on his rollerblades in Beishan Park in the city of Jilin, Jilin province, and he is looking forward to the coming ski season.

His skillful skating always attracts attention, but few of his fans know that he was once a national ski champion.

The retired bulldozer driver won the 20-kilometer cross-country skiing championship at the first National Ski Games in 1957. Fittingly, he first began to learn to ski to make it easier for him to herd sheep.

Born in a village at the foot of the Beishan Mountains, Han was already helping his family herd sheep as a child.

"The sheep could run fast, even across snow-covered mountains, so it was really difficult for me to keep up with dozens of them in the winter," he said. "But when I saw how fast my elder brothers could ski, I had an idea."

Han collected pieces of wood and leather and made a simple kind of snowboard.

"I practiced skiing dozens of kilometers a day, and after many tumbles, I was finally able to master it," he said. "Several months later, I could move even faster than the sheep."

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