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Snowboarding has a long way to go in China

By Gao Qihui(China Daily) Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 11:22

Emil Ulsletten, a snowboarder for Norway, finally realized the dream he has pursued since childhood when he won the championship of the Beijing stop of "Air & Style" – one of the most influential snowboarding events – at China's National Olympic Stadium on Dec 6.

"It is insane and out of my expectation and I have never thought of this a couple of years ago," said Ulsletten who scored the highest among the world's top 24 riders from 10 countries at this event.

Though Sebastien Toutant from Canada accomplished the longest stay in the air for 2.801 seconds winning the "Red Bull Airtime", Norwegians unexpectedly prevailed in this event with Emil's two compatriots Stale Sandech and Torgeir Bergrem respectively finishing in second and third place, reflecting Europe's dominance in the winter games.

It took Europe 18 years to develop snowboarding to its current level, said Andrew Hourmont, one of the founders of the Air & Style Event. He added that China should be patient in developing this sport.

In Europe, where there is a large skiing population, it is relatively easy for beginners to find peers who also ski among family members, friends and classmates.

Second place winner Stale Sandbech, who also took home a silver model at the Sochi Olympics Games, benefited much from a supportive environment.

Having an older brother, a snowboard photographer, as a mentor, the availability of the snowboarding school and an almost infinite amount of talent, it didn't take long for Sandbech's potential in skiing to develop after he first strapped himself on a snowboard at the age of eight.

Things were not so smooth for Liu Wei, the only Chinese rider at the Air & Style Beijing Event this year. Liu started snowboarding 10 years ago and had to learn it by himself due to the absence of teaching and guidance.

"At the beginning, I watched some snowboarding videos of foreign riders and learned their tricks," said Liu. "The size of the snowboarding population is essential for this sport's development in China."

Disappointing the Chinese audience at the Air & Style Beijing Event 2014, Liu was eliminated on the first round scoring only 58.3 points, the second lowest of 24 contesters.

Despite their different backgrounds, a common element does exist among the top riders - the deep love for the sport.

The important thing is having fun with friends, said Emil Ulsletten after winning the championship.

Similarly, Sandbech attributes his success to his persistence and the deep love for the sport.

"I just love snowboarding and I snowboard almost every day whenever I can. You can't be good if you don't enjoy snowboarding," said the 21-year-old rider.

The snow skiing event has become part of Liu Wei's life. "I spend almost 200 days snow skiing a year," said Liu.

"It is undeniable that a professional rider is comparatively well-off with sponsorships, but first of all you have to love this sport. If you really love it, you may not care much about other things."

To ignite people's interest in snow skiing, hosting high-level international events is widely believed to be key. That is also the main goal of the Air & Style Beijing Event which first came to Beijing in 2010.

"This event is aimed at drawing more young people to take part in this sport and only in this way can snowboarding develop," added Hourment, one of the founders of the Air & Style events.

Actually, change is happening as Sebastien Toutant, who has taken part in this event five times, feels that the crowd coming to watch it is getting bigger and bigger. "They are pretty insane and I feel more and more at home here."

That is why Beijing needs the 2022 Olympic Games, according to Liu Wei. "I am very happy to see snow skiing is getting more and more attention in China." Liu is also very optimistic that Beijing can win the bid to host the 2022 Olympic Games..

Such a big event will bring a lot of worldwide top snowboarders to China and provide a feast for snowboarding lovers in China, said Liu who added that the Olympics will definitely give snow skiing a boost in China.



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