Just as the Hong Kong national ski team member Arabella Ng became the first athlete in Hong Kong to compete at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, last month, some of her teammates are already getting ready for the upcoming Games in Beijing.
On March 4, nine athletes aged 12 to 21 gathered for the first time in Yabuli, in Heilongjiang Province, for their first official meeting and training session to prepare themselves for a ticket to the 2022 Winter Games.
The skiers also had a chance to watch China’s national ski team race on the Er Guokui Mountain, the Chinese team’s picturesque training ground.
Young Post visited Club Med Yabuli ski resort to watch the teens in action and chat to them about the four-day boot camp.
This is how Arabella Ng is feeling at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics as the only athlete from Hong Kong
“Before this trip, I didn’t know how big skiing was in other areas, especially in China,” said 15-year-old Audrey King.
The student from Chinese International Hong Kong said that she was happy to be able to get to know her teammates. The trip has allowed the team to form a close bond; when they weren’t busy practising, the teens would regularly get together
for epic snowball fights.
International College Hong Kong student Andrea Cheng added that it was a good opportunity to find out what ski level each member was at.
The 13-year-old first fell in love with snow at the age of three, when her family moved to Switzerland. Having been back in snow-free Hong Kong for two and a half years now, she finds skiing all the more special.
“It’s very exciting to be on the slopes, [with] all the sounds and the wind,” she said.
Meanwhile, it’s the high speed and “feeling of freedom” of the slaloms that appeal most to Hong Kong International School student – and regular YP reader – Jack Archer.
“One of the things that make skiing stand out among other sports is although it makes you go fast, you have to maintain as much control as possible,” Jack, 15, said.
Having begun skiing at the age of two – the same age he learned to walk – Jack credited his early induction into the sport to his father. “I had flimsy plastic skis, and he took me down the slope in between his legs,” he recalled, smiling.
Taking in the pristine view of the snow-covered mountains, it’s not difficult to see what draws Andrea, Audrey and Jack to skiing.
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“When you’re on a mountain, nothing else really matters,” Audrey mused. “It’s also something that I’ve been doing since I was really young” – she’s been skiing since she was four – “I can’t imagine my life without skiing.”
She added that skiing was a unique sport in the sense that it’s both a competitive yet very personal, individual experience. It’s a mix of qualities she wasn’t able to find in other sports. After the four days of training, Andrea reflected that she needed to work on “leaning forward a bit more”, as she rested her weight too far back. That would giver her better control of her skis, she said.
As well as honing one’s own craft, external aids such as equipment and coaches are equally crucial, Jack learned from the trip.
“A longer ski sometimes helps, because the longer your ski, the faster you can go,” he said. It’s a delicate balance, however, because “if they’re too long, you can’t control them”. Finding the right set of skis is especially hard for Jack and his peers, because, he added, they’re constantly growing.
But it does help to keep some things the same: “stay with the same instructor”, Jack advised. “That’s a way to get better because it makes sure your style is consistent.”
When asked about watching the Chinese national team, Andrea said it was a rewarding learning experience.
While skiing is still a relatively new sport in China, the team have high hopes for the boost that the 2022 Beijing Games will give it.
“I think that’s really good for the sport in general,” Jack said with a hopeful smile.
In four year’s time, the trio might be back on the slopes on the mainland, for another life changing experience.