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Skate expectations

Updated: 2022-02-05 09:00 ( China Daily )
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Together with a mascot of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games, students of Taipingzhuang Center Primary School showcase their skating skills on a rink at the school in Beijing in January. [Photo by Li Yan/For China Daily]

With a blue to white gradient tulle dress and pink skates, Ren Zan performs an elegant and confident ice dance with other teammates on the rink inside their primary school in northwestern Beijing's Yanqing district.

The fourth-grade student has been practicing ice dancing since she was a freshman, and spends nearly an hour every day on the 1,800-square meter outdoor skating rink. Taipingzhuang Center Primary School built the rink in 2016 as part of a bid to boost students' interest in winter sports.

"Sometimes we were afraid of falling down on the ice, but our coach would ask us to relax our shoulders. I love dancing on ice," Ren says, adding that the school's ice-dancing team has more than 30 members.

Principal Ding Jianpei said the school has bought more than 200 pairs of skates and other skating gear to provide ice activities for all 164 students.

"We rescheduled the school curriculum, integrating the time for exercise breaks, physical education classes and after-school activities to make sure that each grade is granted access to the ice activities for an hour every day," Ding says.

The school has organized student clubs for speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and curling, and the outdoor rink is also open to parents and nearby residents.

Ten-year-old Fan Huixin is part of the school's curling club, which was formed in late December. "The first time I saw curling stones was in school. We have learned unity and wisdom from the game," Fan says.

An ice way to learn

"Remove their stones!" a member of the boys' team shouts during a competition.

The outdoor curling sheet is scaled down from the standard size used in the Winter Olympics, said Zhang Lijia, coach of the curling team.

Zhang, a teacher at the school, has an interest in winter sports and is enthusiastic about introducing the students to them. "I studied the rules of curling by myself and taught my students. We made progress together through learning and competitions," Zhang says.

"By participating in winter sports, children can experience success and failure, and also glean happiness and wisdom from the games."

Principal Ding believes that children not only enjoy playing winter sports and strengthening their bodies in the process, but also shape their personalities through physical education. "Our students organize the gear and sometimes sweep the ice on their own," he says, adding that the school has nurtured nearly 30 ice skaters for the district's professional ice and snow sport teams.

As China set a goal to get 300 million people involved in winter sports and the buzz around the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games grew, more children and school students have been given access to such activities.

Wang Chunlu, a former short-track speedskating world champion and multiple Olympic medalist, is dean of the China Ice Sport School at Beijing Sport University. She noted in mid-January that the country, which began promoting ice and snow sports in early 2015, has already exceeded its goal, with 346 million people actively participating in winter sports.

"The school now focuses on the cultivation of professional coaches for athletes, as well as physical education teachers who know and love winter sports," says Wang.

"Teachers play an essential role in getting children involved in winter sports. Like spreading seeds, they provide knowledge, skills, and promote the winter sports culture to teens at school."

The faculty of the China Ice Sport School is made up of retired professional athletes, even national and world champions, whose voices are more powerful and persuasive when promoting winter sports to young people.

Last year, the school participated in more than 200 online and in-person promotional activities, such as launching an ice hockey video class which has garnered 40 million views.

Winter sport celebrities are also playing a role in attracting more teenagers to winter sports. In January, Chinese figure skating duo Pang Qing and Tong Jian established a foundation to support the winter sports industry in China. The foundation, under China Sports Foundation, will fund projects to cultivate figure skating skills among teenagers and offer them opportunities in international competitions, Tong says.

A skating and arts center that the pair founded after their retirement has contributed to publicizing and promoting winter sports among the nation's youth.

They have held 66 free lectures on ice and snow sports nationwide while setting up training courses for figure skating and speed skating at the center. The ice and snow school Pang and Tong opened in Beijing's Shijingshan district in 2019 also added subjects including ice hockey.

"We will keep promoting the free lectures to meet with teenagers and help them overcome challenges while enjoying figure skating," Tong says.

Shen Xue, president of the Chinese Figure Skating Association, says that, after China released policies to reduce students' homework and tutoring burden, the association, together with China Dancers' Association, choreographed the first radio figure skating gymnastics, aiming to introduce figure skating to youngsters and encourage students to take part in the sport.

Nearly 50,000 students from 47 schools and 15 kindergartens have participated in the sport, she says.

Learning the slopes

As the host of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the capital has promoted winter sports education and demonstration classes in more than 600 schools covering 16 districts, which involves 500,000 primary and middle school students, the Beijing government said in January.

Since 2016, the capital has held six winter sports competitions, with the number of participants increasing from 500 to 1,700. The competitions also expanded from fun activities like climbing snow slopes and playing puzzles on ice, to embrace more serious events, such as speed skating and ice hockey.

Chuiyangliu Primary School in Chaoyang district is among the third batch of schools in Beijing to introduce winter sports. Principal Zhong Yali said the school has promoted winter sports education for a long time.

Because students cannot practice on a real rink, the school laid special paving on the playground that simulates ice, so that students can try their hand at ice hockey and ice soccer, Zhong said, adding that students can learn skills and train as part of three after-school clubs.

"We invited coaches from sports clubs or sports schools to host training sessions for children," he said.

With 60 members, ice soccer is the most popular club in the school and runs alongside other clubs, including snowball fighting and figure skating. Due to epidemic prevention measures, students cannot play in real matches, but are practicing skills through training courses on campus.

In addition, training sessions beyond schools have also attracted parents to further improve the winter sports skills of their children.

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