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Women hold up half of China's winter sports "sky"

Editor: zhenglimin 丨Xinhua

03-08-2017 20:28 BJT

CHANGCHUN, China, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Li Yan, head coach of the Chinese short track speed skating team, celebrated the International Women's Day by working. She was busy trying on new home-made skates for the team, as part of preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

As one of the most famous coaches in China's winter sports world, Li led the Chinese team to snatch three gold medals at the just-concluded 2017 Asian Winter Games, getting the Chinese delegation a quarter of its gold medals.

"We got all the medals we had expected, and we uncovered our problems. We are satisfied," Li told Xinhua.

In the words of Chairman Mao Zedong, China's women "hold up half the sky," a statement that also holds true in terms of winter sports.

Women contributed half of the gold medals for the Chinese team's Sapporo effort. In Sochi 2014, they got all of the three gold medals for China. China's male athletes only named one solo Winter Olympic champion as of yet, far fewer than the women's 10.5 Olympic titles.

Chinese women have also marched ahead in terms of making breakthroughs. In Albertville 1992, Ye Qiaobo earned China's first ever winter Olympics medal. In Salt Lake City 2002, Yang Yang won the country's first winter Olympic title.

And when these athletes retire, most of them continue to advance the cause of developing and popularizing winter sports in China.

Yang Yang runs a skating center in Shanghai, a pioneer in the nation's strategy to promote winter sports in warmer southern China. Another winter Olympic gold medalist, Li Jianrou, also established a skating club in 2015, calling for more teenagers to work out in the ice and snow in their spare time.

Besides the big-name winter events, many ordinary women have also taken an active role in winter sports across the country.

"I was astonished when I saw 40 amateur ice hockey players from Hong Kong devoting so much to the sport, so I decided to teach them," said Tan Anqi. The former member of the Chinese women ice hockey team began to coach in the Hong Kong SAR in 2011.

Tan says her goal is to "show the public the fun and spirit of ice hockey."

It was this spirit that inspired one middle-aged woman named Wang Jinfen to take up cross-country skiing. She stunned the crowd by finishing a 25km race at the age of 45 during the 2017 Vasaloppet China in January.

She told Xinhua that she wanted to set an example for young people, and says she hopes for China to win a medal in cross-country skiing at home in 2022.

Behind all of China's achievements in winter sports is the endeavoring hard work of women whose contributions often go unseen.

In her early skiing career in the 1980s, Wang trained so hard that her nails ended up frostbitten every winter. After one day's training, she found herself unable to sleep due to a lack of heating in her dorm. To keep warm, she had to run in the building at midnight. She says she often wanted to quit, but persevered because of her love of the sport.

"We will keep going, because we love what we do," she said.

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