Wang Baosheng. (File photo: social media)
YINCHUAN, China, Dec.30 (Xinhua) -- It's been a record cold year for much of China, but the average temperature in Yinchuan, capital city of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is cold even by current standards. Temperatures have dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius. But while most people are bundling themselves up in heavy clothes, two elderly men are getting in swim gear for a dip in the frozen Beita Lake.
"Before it froze, I came swimming here every day, but now I have to break the ice first," said Wang Baosheng, before jumping into a 10-meter-long and two-meter-wide water lane that he created.
Wang, 69, has been swimming in the winter for 20 years, and taking part in triathlon competitions for 10 years.
Over the years, he has swum across China's top two longest rivers, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. He also traveled to Russia's Vladivostok for an international winter swimming competition.
"I love challenges, and sports have become part of my life," Wang said, adding that he also takes part in many other sports events including marathon and cycling.
However, his age always make it difficult for him to get support from his family and approvals from the organizers.
Last June, he was nearly denied by an international cycling race at the Liupan mountain in Ningxia province, which features a high altitude, curved roads and steep slopes. To ensure safety, cyclists over 60 years old were not allowed to participate, and Wang had to persuade his son to sign a guarantee that he drafted himself.
"It was quite hard to finish the 30km race, especially on the upward slope. Some young riders even walked for some while, but I made it to the destination all the way on my bike," he said, adding that he was one of the first 50 cyclists of over 600 participants to cross the finish line.
But Wang Baosheng is quick to point out that there is someone tougher than him. "He has taken part in 11 triathlon competitions for two years in a row. He is the real Ironman."
Wang Baosheng is talking about 61-year-old Wang Yongli. Both of them are senior members of the Meideheng Triathlon Club in Yinchuan, and the duo has earned the nickname "two Wangs."
In recent years, Wang Yongli tried his best not to miss a single triathlon tournament across the country, neither standard competitions, nor the super ones that are high intensity.
He once broke his wrist in the cycling section against pouring rains in south China's Chongqing Changshou Lake Triathlon, and was hit to the right-side a big wave in the swimming section of northeast China's Liaoning Dongdai River.
"The bigger the challenges are, the more excited I am. This is exactly what I expect for my retired life," Wang Yongli said.
For Wang Yongli, winter is a season for him to take rest and get prepared for the triathlon competitions next year. Outdoor swimming and a 10km run are in his daily routine. "I always rank first among my friends on WeRun (a pedometer on the Chinese social media app WeChat) and receive many thumb-ups every day," he said.
Fan Jun, who is responsible for the triathlon club with more than 50 registered members, admires the "two Wangs" for their perseverance. "They are the living examples for us, and we can learn from them that doing sports is not just a hobby. It can be a way of life."
Wang Baosheng will turn 70 on Tuesday, and he will compete in the group of 70-year-olds in future triathlon competitions. "Compared with them, I'm young, and I will have a greater chance to win," he said.