Medal-winning Olympic feats inspire people to give winter sports a try
Residents in Youyu county attend an ice hockey competition. [Photo by Xin Tai for China Daily]
The 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, which concluded on Feb 20 and where Chinese athletes secured nine gold, four silver and two bronze medals, have aroused a strong enthusiasm for ice and snow sports in Shanxi.
And many locals in this North China province said their love of winter sports was also encouraged by the 18-year-old Shanxi athlete Su Yiming, who won a gold medal in the men's snowboard big air and a silver in the men's snowboard slopestyle. This was the first time that an athlete from Shanxi had secured a medal in the Olympic Winter Games.
But local residents were not particularly surprised with Su's brilliant performance, as they think enthusiasm and tradition at the grassroots level are crucial for a region to produce top athletes.
Indeed, residents in Shanxi already have enthusiasm and tradition in winter sports.
The county of Youyu is a prime example. Winter sports there have developed in multiple forms in recent years. The enthusiasm for the sports is so strong that many of the frozen water surfaces in the county are turned into skiing venues in winter.
On a lake in the county's Nanhewan Wetland Park, an ice and snow carnival has been held since late December. The site gathers hundreds of winter sports enthusiasts every day, who are attending amateur competitions, learning to ski from professional trainers, or just riding sleighs, ice slides and ice motorcycles for fun.
For many visitors, the most exciting sport might be riding an ice slide. Built on a natural slope of a mountaineer's path in the Nanshan Forest Park in the county, the ice slide is said to be the longest in North China.
Wang Xuefei, a local resident and a frequent visitor to the carnival, said he was thrilled with the speed when riding the slide.
"It takes only 28 seconds to finish the 360-meter trip," Wang said. "That's almost the speed of a car on the road."
Wang said he also takes his child to the venue to learn skating and skiing from the trainers.
The carnival also features ice and snow sculptures and snow lantern shows, offering a novel experience to tourists.
In the northern part of Shanxi, Youyu has developed itself into an emerging tourist destination based on its rich cultural, natural and ecological resources.
According to Zhang Zhenhai, Party secretary of the county, it has attracted a great number of tourists "to watch the blossoming flowers in spring, to escape the heat in summer and to see the harvest in autumn".
"And the emerging ice and snow sports in winter have turned Youyu into a four-season attraction," Zhang said.
In Shanxi as a whole, the province's ice and snow sports have developed into a larger-scale industry. It has a number of clubs and professional teams in such sports as snowboarding, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and curling.
Official statistics show that Shanxi has 233 enterprises engaged in winter sports operations, with skiing and skating venues scattered throughout the province.
Wu Jia contributed to this story.