For fifth-grader Sun Luwei from Hulunbuir, eastern Inner Mongolia autonomous region, skating is not something new.
Sun, 11, found his passion for the ice sport four years ago, when he was admitted to a local elementary school.
The first two semesters of skating classes — widely available at the city's primary and secondary schools — had intrigued him, and later emboldened him to seek more advanced private classes.
"I love the excitement associated with the sport," said Sun, while having a training break at a new sprawling skating center in the city's Hailaar district.
The young athlete was not alone in testing his potential. "Five out of 55 students in my class signed up for private classes," he added.
Sun was among a growing number of students in the border city who have reaped the benefits of a recent local government drive to promote winter games.
It was part of a broader effort by local authorities to tap the city's natural advantages for greener development. Crouching about 100 kilometers south of the China-Russia border, and 200 kilometers east of Mongolia, the Chinese city that used to be dependent on coal mining has shifted its focus to develop tourism and other winter sports, thanks to its long winter.
To boost public involvement, the city authorities have launched initiatives to add winter games to school curriculums, build skating and skiing facilities, and create sports associations.
It also won the bidding for the 14th National Winter Games, which was planned for February but was postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Shi Juhua, deputy director of the city's sports bureau, said nearly half the local students have been involved in winter sports over the past few years, a significant rise.
"Our aim is 80 percent by 2025," she said.
But the lack of basic facilities used to hamper training efforts.
Wang Guifang, 58, a speedskating athlete from Hulunbuir who broke the national record four times, said they used to train in outdoor rinks, where the temperature could drop to -30 C.
"That created many problems," she said. "You have to wear a heavy coat while skating, and the wind outside affects performance."
Wang said with the world-class facilities available now, she encouraged young professional skaters to make the most of their potential.
(Source: chinadaily.com.cn)July 16, 2020