Winter sports boom seen in China's Hainan province

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Helmet on, snowboard in, on top of the slope, and sliding in a zigzag... Smoothly like leaves fluttering in the air, seven-year-old Yang Quangang slid down a dry ski slope in an indoor skiing venue in China's island province of Hainan.

The boy has been practicing skiing for a year and is now learning how to change his blades.

"I felt very interested when I skied for the first time. I plan to go to Xinjiang and Beijing to go skiing on real snow in winter," he said.

It is difficult to associate Hainan, the tropical island, with winter sports. However, thanks to China's efforts to promote winter sports in the southern part of the country as the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games approaches, skating and skiing are no longer an "extravagant desire" in Hainan, although there are only two indoor ice rinks and one dry ski venue in the province.

Cao Jingjie, who has a passion for equestrian, surfing and sailing, is now also a ski-lover. For the 24-year-old, a dry ski venue has its own advantages.

"Indoor ski blankets are more suitable for beginners to pick up basics. Rather than being on real snow where one slides down quickly, a dry slope ski will allow the coach to correct my postures at any time," she said.

Despite the restraints of the island's natural environment, Hainan has been pushing forward training for young people in skiing, ice hockey, figure skating and other projects year-round.

"We offer ski courses and level certification tests, organize ski competitions, ski tours during winter vacations and take students to ski inland," said Zhang You, operation director of the Xueleshan Ski Resort. Having been in operation for two years, this ski resort has received nearly 20,000 people and now has more than 200 long-term students.

One of them is Wang Bozheng, a Hainan native. Growing up with no contact with snow, he has always longed for skiing. For him, skiing learning to ski is a process of self-awareness and self-improvement.

"Hainan people actually want to be able to ski very much. The age of the students ranges from three and a half to fifty years old, with the majority of them in their thirties," Zhang said.

Xiao Wen is another Hainan native who has never been involved in skating before. He started practicing only three months ago, after he came across a video of Japanese figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu, and was impressed by the gracefulness of the sport. He has been obsessed with figure skating ever since.

"I learned it online. Skating is very simple at the beginning, but the advanced movements are tricky to learn. There is no professional coach in Haikou. I fall a lot when practicing figure skating," Wen said.

He also expressed the hope that the government can further support the development of winter sports in Hainan, and hopes that Haikou can build a professional ice skating rink, attracting ice and snow talents to Hainan through the free trade port policy, so that Hainan people who love ice and snow sports can get professional training.

Another ice rink in Hainan is located in the resort city of Sanya. The Tus Ice and Snow Park is the only ice rink in Hainan that meets Olympic standards. Since its opening in 2018, it has held a number of international and domestic ice competitions, hosted a training camp for the national figure skating training team, and provided skating experience class for the general public, primary and secondary school students, and tourists.

"We hope to enable the people of Sanya, especially the younger generation, to get close to ice sports and feel the charm of them," said Zhao Pengcheng, manager of the Tus Ice and Snow Park in Sanya.

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