Alpine Skiing in China — Still A Long Way to Go

4 min read 

This morning, Bob Ni posted a photo on WeChat with the location set as Anniviers, Switzerland. He is one of the few young Chinese skiers to be selected to practice skiing in a small town near Bern in Switzerland.

“It is absolutely wonderful to conclude this training in Switzerland with a small race with 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics downhill champion Sandro Viletta. Although he didn’t try his best, it is downright exciting to race with an Olympic champion. I could feel my body burning and congested,” he said.

Bob Ni, young Chinese skiier receiving trainings in Switzerland

Currently, they are going through the selection stage for the Chinese national skiing team. If he is selected, the coming three years will be filled with hard work and long hours of preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

According to Lifeweek, Bob is not a local Beijinger. He came to Beijing with his family and was enrolled into an international middle school. Though still in his third year of senior high school, he has many more years of experience skiing than most of the young skiers in China. “I was already the second oldest in our team, with most of them being 14 or 15,” he said.

Their team now serves as back-up for the current Chinese national skiing team, some of whom are already reaching their late 20s and will face retirement by the 2022 Winter Olympics. Compared to the previously selected team members with perfect fitness scores but no foundation in skiing, early starters tend to excel in training. Bob has loved skiing since he was seven years old.

He told Pandaily that the training in Switzerland is both mentally and physically challenging. His training regime include strength training, training in the snow, and psychological exercises. Skiing is an extreme sport with high risks that requires intense concentration. The foreign coaches would often instruct them to lie down on cushions, and try to feel each part of their body from head to toe and concentrate.

The gap of skiing culture is still large between China and countries like Switzerland or America. Bob has spent the past few spring festivals training in America and Austria.

“The major differences are due to the geographical locations and nature conditions. The snowing seasons of southern and northern hemispheres are different. Zhang Jiakou (where the venues for the Winter Olympics are located) is around 200 kilometers north of Beijing, away from the smog and crowd. However, the mountains are not very tall, which places a limit on skiing paths distance-wise. The current venue in Zhang Jiakou is built-up enough to hold skiing competitions like freestyle skiing and half-pipe snowboarding, but clearly not enough for Alpine skiing.”

The mountains in Switzerland go as high as 3000 kilometers, extending a range of 1200 kilometers. Seen from Bob’s pictures, the powdery snow of the Alps shines brightly under the dark blue sky.

the Alps, from Bob’s WeChat moments

Alpine skiing, as the name implies, has its roots from the Alps in European areas and became part of the Winter Games since 1936. In terms of average speed, the event is comprised of downhill, super giant slalom, giant slalom and slalom. Bob won a silver medal for the giant slalom race during the Salomon International Skiing Competition.

Alpine skiing only began in China in the 1950’s, with early development around the northernmost provinces such as Heilongjiang and Jilin. It is still not a widely popular sport today. China seems to go overboard on the freestyle skiing disciplines in terms of winter sports.

“The sound of the wind is thrilling. I really love the feeling of speeding down,” Bob mentioned his strong affection for the sport during the interview. Over the years, he watched most of the international games, both the Olympics and the world championships.

“Skiing is clearly not as enjoyable to watch as basketball games, but it has a similar sense of excitement and competition. In world championships, the gap between the champion and the contestant taking eighth place can be only tenths of a second. The final rounds can be as breath-taking as the buzzer beater of basketball games,” explained Bob as he is also a basketball lover. Compared to basketball players, skiers are lone rangers on the snow.

Beijing is the first city to ever hold both the summer and winter Olympics, but there is still a long way to go before making further progress in the snow.

Featured photo credit to cctv.com

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