The future beckons for the Chinese ski jumping team
As the Olympic cycle leading up to the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing continues, China is busy preparing its ski jumping teams, made up of young athletes with enormous potential. Every effort is being made to get them up to the highest possible level and, in the long term, create a real ski jumping culture in a country where winter sports are growing rapidly.
China has been represented in ski jumping at only two editions of the Olympic Winter Games: at Turin 2006, with a team of four athletes that included Li Yang, who qualified for the final in the individual normal hill event, placing 44th; and at PyeongChang 2018, where Chang Xinyue, the sole Chinese representative, finished in a promising 20th position in the women’s event. The 24-year-old holds the national record (women and men combined) with a jump of 125 metres, which she set in Lillehammer, and has competed in the World Cup since the 2012-2013 season. She got her first points under her belt in the 2017-2018 edition and is continuing to progress.
For the moment, China, although a great sporting and Olympic nation that has previously lit up the Winter Games in the short track (its most successful discipline in any winter sport, with 10 golds and 33 medals in total), freestyle skiing, figure and speed skating, snowboarding and curling, does not have a ski jumping culture. But things are changing, and fast. A number of promising athletes are preparing for Beijing 2022 with the firm intention of making history, and everything is being done to see that they do just that.
Made up of raw talents between the ages of 15 and 20, who have often been drafted in from other sports, the Chinese ski jumping teams have gone to train in Norway. Clas Brede Braathen, head of the Norwegian Ski Jumping Federation, said: “Some of them have more than enough physical potential to become world number one; but before that, they need to do some ski jumping!” He added: “We believe in them. I am convinced that they can become Olympic athletes and, more importantly, that a ski jumping culture can be developed for people in China. That would be fantastic.”
Springboard to the future
At the XXIV Olympic Winter Games, the ski jumps will be located in the mountain region of Zhangjiakou in Heibei Province, approximately 160km north-east of Beijing. Access to this snow sports venue – which will also host freestyle skiing, snowboarding, biathlon and all the Nordic skiing disciplines – will be facilitated by a high-speed rail link. Work on the jumps at the Kuyangshu Nordic Centre is nearing completion.
In the meantime, the Beidahu resort, which boasts K50 and K90 hills and all the necessary training facilities, is where China’s top two female ski jumpers, Li Xueyao and Chang Xinyue, are honing their skills. Chang was originally a short track skater, before switching to ski jumping in the early 2010s. She recalls that the first thing she needed to do was lose weight! “It’s not too early to talk about the Beijing 2022 Games,” she says. “My goal is to qualify, to be out there at the venue with the whole team.”
“The new Chinese women’s ski jumping team started training in May 2018,” explains head coach Wang Jianxun. “We’re going to prepare to the best of our ability for Beijing 2022; the aim for the whole team is to compete there and to try to give it their all.” This, though, will only be the start: the Olympic ski jumps are set to become part of a training centre, while the enthusiasm generated by the Games will, no doubt, inspire a whole new generation to take up winter sports.