From the People's Daily app.
And this is Story in the Story.
Practiced by Chinese professional snow skiers when training during the offseason, roller skiing grabbed public attention in 2018 on the hot and dry highlands of Gansu Province.
After witnessing a surprise Chinese victory in one of the races at the three-day International Ski Federation (FIS) competition, an intrigued public took part in an amateur race.
Organizers were confident the sport would catch on among young urbanites.
"It's a great way to encourage more people to try winter sports and eventually realize the goal of having 300 million Chinese involved in ice and snow activities leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics," said Ding Dong, executive deputy director of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center.
Chinese cross-country skier Wang Qiang broke Scandinavian dominance by winning the men’s 22-kilometer race, claiming China’s first-ever IFS title.
The victory immediately attracted interest in winter sports.
Today’s Story in the Story looks at roller-skiing, an activity once enjoyed by snow skiers during the off season, has emerged as the latest sporting trend and part of the country’s drive to promote winter sport participation.
Kristian Ankersen (R) of Norway and Jostein Olafsen of Norway react after the Men's 200m finals Sprint Final of 2019 FIS Rollerski World Cup Beijingat Beijing Olympic Park in Beijing, China on July 5, 2019. (Photo: VCG)
The equipment is cheap and can be enjoyed on hard surfaces and by all age groups, which compliments China's ambition to increase participation in winter sports even in the country’s snowless southern territories, Ding said.
Developed in the 1940s as a dry-land training regimen for cross-country skiers, roller skiing involves racing on wheeled skis on tarmac or plastic tracks. It has evolved into a competitive sport in its own right, with the annual World Cup series and biennial world championships sanctioned by the FIS.
Eleven cities have been selected by the winter sports authorities as part of a pilot program to offer training and equipment to the public, especially in schools, facilitated by Norwegian ski wax producer Swix.
"Skiing in general is a technically challenging sport to learn, but on roller skis it's much easier to learn the basics in a safer and more cost-effective way," said Ni Shoujun, deputy secretary general of the Beijing Skiing Association.
"We had first-time learners of all ages, from 9 to 60, who managed to roll on the track during the open session. It speaks volumes."
Jilin, a skiing destination in Northeast China's Jilin province, has added roller skiing to physical education curricula in 30 Primary and secondary schools, involving more than 10,000 children.
"It helps lay the foundation in quantity and we believe it can translate into quality when we draft junior talent for the elite program in the near future," said Tian Haiyan, vice-president of Jilin Municipal Sports School.
(Photo: China Daily)
China's growing interest in cross-country skiing has impressed some of the best in the sport.
Norway's three-time Olympic champion Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, who won the 200m and 1.5km sprints at the World Cup meet, hailed Beijing's effort to introduce the warm-weather training method to the masses.
"It's a fun exercise for general fitness and a great tool for people who are not familiar with cross-country skiing to have a sense of what the sport is about," said Ding.
The Beijing World Cup event was approved by the FIS after China successfully hosted a lower-profile competition last summer on the hot highlands around Baiyin in Gansu Province, but the recent scorching weather in the capital has raised health concerns for athletes and spectators at the afternoon sessions.
"I think it sends a good message that this sport can be for anyone," said the 22-year-old, who won three gold medals at last year's PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
"I think it's important to see that it's good for people's health－not necessarily competing, but just viewing it as an exercise. It's important to bring this concept to China", he said.
Klaebo also hailed his win in Beijing as an important stepping stone in his bid for more Olympic glory at the 2022 Games in the mountains around co-host city of Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province.
The best result China has achieved in Olympic cross-country skiing, which produces roughly a quarter of the gold medals up for grabs at each Games, is a 16th-place finish in the women's 4x5km relay at Turin in 2006.
"The accessible nature of roller skiing can buy us more time to improve our skills all year long. Hopefully, we can be more competitive at the Olympics three years from now," said Wang Qiang, China’s number one cross country skier.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe, and Paris Yelu Xu. Music by: bensound.com. Text from China Daily.)