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Small kids dream big on ice rink

Pub Date:2022-01-24 08:54 Source:Xinhua

HEFEI (Xinhua) -- On hearing the whistle, eight kids decked out in protective gear dashed out on the ice rink, propelling a puck skillfully over the ice with hockey sticks in hand.

Winter sports used to be a foreign and unaffordable pastime in China, but the high-speed sport requiring frequent physical contact has become increasingly popular across China.

"I have been practicing ice hockey for over four years. My dream is to become a professional player," said Wei Yuhang, 8, who is a member of an ice hockey team in Hefei City, capital of east China's Anhui Province.

There are 14 players on the team, aged between seven and 10.

Wei fell in love with the high-intensity sport after he watched an ice hockey game in Beijing a few years ago. "Ice hockey gives me an opportunity to exercise and make friends. We feel great fighting as a team. It's just like a big family," Wei said.

His mom Li Xuyang, who helps organize the ice hockey team, told Xinhua that the team was formed in hopes of bringing together young ice hockey lovers in the city.

However, finding an ideal ice rink for training was by no means easy in the province with an annual average temperature of 14 to 17 degrees Celsius.

A turnaround came in October 2021 when a comprehensive indoor ice and snow sports venue opened, which includes an ice rink of more than 600 square meters, a standard curling sheet and three skiing simulators.

According to statistics, the venue has received more than 1,500 visitors since its opening. A special package is rolled out to encourage more people to engage in winter sports -- 365 yuan (about 58 U.S. dollars) for an annual pass, said Sun Xuewei from the provincial sports bureau.

"Our kids used to play on ice rinks in shopping malls. Training space and time were restricted because the rink is also open to the public. We're grateful the local government is attaching more attention to winter sports and built this venue," said Li.

In order to enhance their competitiveness, the team has traveled to other cities to play games and for intensified training almost every year. During that period, kids, parents, and their coach Fu Qiunan would live and train together for weeks. At the end of each trip, their athletic skills are improved and friendships strengthened.

Nowadays, more kids are joining the wave of winter sports. Multiple winter sports such as skating, ice hockey and skiing have been included in PE courses in many schools across the province. The threshold of such games has been relaxed as more winter sports venues are established in this temperate region.

Nationwide, over 346 million Chinese people, accounting for 24.56 percent of the country's total population, have participated in winter sports activities since Beijing's successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics in 2015, according to statistics recently released by China's National Bureau of Statistics.

"Winter sports are gaining popularity in Anhui thanks to the influence of the upcoming Winter Olympics. Maybe some of the ice hockey players will play in Olympics one day," said Fu. Enditem


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