More people skating in 'champion city'

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Every winter, Lu Qingxian skates on the outdoor ice rink in Qitaihe City, in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Even as the mercury plunges to minus 20 degrees Celsius, the 72-year-old keeps smiling and skating fast.

Lu has been skating since 1973, and since 2013, he and his friends have enjoyed skating on the frozen lake in a park in Qitaihe.

"We cleaned the snow and poured ice on the lake with a homemade ice-water truck. The water came from the lake below the ice," said Sun Yulin, a coach at a local skating club that counts Lu among its members. "We participated in many competitions every year, and we also teach children for free."

The 54 club members have an average age of 60, and they have won awards in many domestic competitions.

Every winter, it is common to see skaters on frozen lakes in Qitaihe, with short track speed skating an especially popular discipline.

In the past few decades, Qitaihe, a city of 920,000 people, has produced ten short track world champions, including Yang Yang and Wang Meng. Skaters from Qitaihe have won 172 top-level gold medals.

The city currently has seven elementary schools that teach short track speed skating, and also a sports institute specializing in training short track speed skating coaches, with the student body consisting of retired professional athletes.

In order to encourage further participation in ice and snow sports, the Qitaihe municipal government has held ice and snow carnivals for the last two years, and has constructed a short track speed skating memorial in one of the city's towers.

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