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Beijing works on improving ice hockey sporting level

Reporter: Tang Bo 丨 CCTV.com

09-24-2016 12:33 BJT

By CCTV reporter Tang Bo

Ice hockey is set to take China by storm as Beijing is set to host the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic games. There is already an increasing number of young followers in big cities who are learning about slap shots and teamwork.

These ice hockey players are only 6 years old.

But in three weeks, they will be competing in the Beijing Youth Ice Hockey Championship.

So these young tykes are putting in some extra hours of practice on the rink.

And cheers and pointers from their parents are very much welcomed.

“To prepare for the upcoming competition, he comes here three times a week after school. He is very happy to be able to take part in his first ever championship. We, as parents, are looking forward to his performance,” said Zhang Aihua.

Little Wolf Hockey Club started in 2006 with only 10 students.

Now it is the largest ice hockey club for teenagers in Beijing, with more than 300 members aged 4 to 16.

But participating in a club like this does not come cheap.

It costs 400 to 480 yuan per hour, approximately 60 to 70 US dollars, depending on the coach.

Plus, ice hockey gear incurs hefty expenses.

But it is a price Chinese parents like Zhang Aihua is willing to pay.

“His is much stronger than before. His arms and legs are full of muscles. He hasn't gotten sick so far since he started the training a year ago. Since he has to listen carefully to his coach, he's become more focused not only on the rink, but also in the classroom at school,” Zhang said.

A growing number of parents in Beijing are sending their kids to ice hockey clubs like this. The increasingly wealthy middle class used to be the only major reason for that trend, but now support from the municipal government has brought the development of the sport to the next level.

After the successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Beijing sports authorities published suggestions of the promotion of winter sports.

The city’s Winter Sport Management Center was founded earlier this year to improve the sporting level of winter games.

Efforts are starting to pay off as more and more elite foreign coaches come to Beijing to teach. At the same time, students have become more competitive, and have more chances to train overseas.

"Six of our students were selected by some Canadian youth ice hockey clubs this summer. They have started their overseas training. The municipal government has attached great importance to ice hockey. And many elementary and middle schools, as well as colleges have started ice hockey programs," said Liu Yanhui, director of Little Wolf Hockey Club.

But challenges remain.

When compared with the world’s top hockey players, the club director says Chinese athletes possess good techniques, but still lag behind physically.

So right now, what the club has to do is to strengthen the children’s physical fitness.

And she hopes China’s sports authorities can continue to help in that regard.

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