Asia's center of excellence on ice

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, August 24, 2023
Adjust font size:

Impressed by the venue's post-Olympic operations, the International Skating Union has hailed Beijing's "Ice Ribbon" as a major hub for its Center of Excellence project to promote skating worldwide.

Young skaters selected from across the Asia-Pacific region enjoy the Olympic atmosphere and elite-level facilities at the National Speed Skating Oval during the International Skating Union's Center of Excellence training camp. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Over a year and a half since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics closed, the National Speed Skating Oval, the Games' competition venue, remains busy with professionals, amateurs and tourists sharing the giant 12,000-square-meter ice surface — the largest in Asia — for recreational skating and elite-level training programs all season long.

The bustling scenes at the oval, dubbed the "Ice Ribbon" due to its slick exterior lighting beams, have convinced visiting International Skating Union president Kim Jae-youl that Beijing 2022's legacy is secured.

"I was very happy to hear that the Ice Ribbon is open for public use," Kim said at the oval on Tuesday after launching an ISU Center of Excellence training camp.

"I see many young kids trying to learn to skate. I also understand that the national team stages practice sessions here. It's wonderful to witness that Beijing is taking advantage of the Olympic legacy and putting it to good use. I'm really happy to see the way you utilize the venue," said Kim, a South Korean sports administrator who was elected ISU president in June 2022.

To get the most from the venue in the post-Olympic era, the ISU signed an agreement with the Chinese governing body and venue owner last year to add it to its Center of Excellence project as a base for high-quality training, coaching exchanges, research and grassroots promotion in speed skating.

Among the project's five speed skating venues, the Beijing oval is the only one in the Asia-Pacific region in the lead-up to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

This week's training camp, the first of many to be held over a four-year period, assembled 40 young hopefuls from eight countries and regions across Asia-Pacific.

The youngsters are helmed by a group of experienced coaches led by Chinese Skating Association president Li Yan, who has worked with China's celebrated short-track team.

Visits to cultural and historical landmarks in the capital help the skaters enjoy their downtime from training.

"The ice at the oval has been maintained since the Beijing Olympics and our campers are now enjoying literally the same quality of track as the Olympians did," said Li, who guided China's short-track squad to seven Olympic gold medals across three Games from 2010-2018.

The ISU reckons the combination of the Olympic-standard rink and world-class coaching is a game-changer for its outreach program, especially in terms of covering the tropical Southeast Asia region.

"The ISU set up the Center of Excellence facilities in many different countries that have a strong tradition in skating. And China, of course, is a strong skating country with a beautiful facility," said Kim, the first non-European leader of the ISU in its 131-year history.

"We really appreciate our Chinese colleagues for hosting the camp to develop skating not only in China, but throughout the world.

"This is a great opportunity for the skaters from the warmer-climate countries to train with top-level coaches on the fast Olympic ice ...We look forward to coming back to the Center of Excellence in Beijing with more opportunities for athletes from different countries."

Xiang Qin, a 26-year-old amateur skater from Singapore, said she was "overwhelmed by the magnificence" of the venue as soon as she stepped onto the ice.

"I really appreciate the opportunity to skate on the Olympic track at such a giant oval, which isn't possible in Singapore," said Xiang, who has been training part-time in short-track racing for three years at a shopping-mall rink in Singapore.

"I am so motivated by the Olympic atmosphere to make the best out of every day training here," she added in fluent Mandarin.

Located in Beijing's northern downtown area, where the altitude is close to sea level, the Ice Ribbon earned a resounding thumbs-up from Olympians at Beijing 2022 as one of the world's fastest tracks. Ten Olympic speed skating records were broken at the Games, matching the record total from Salt Lake City in 2002, where the oval is situated over 1,400 meters above sea level on the Utah highlands.

High-altitude tracks, such as the Olympic Oval in Calgary, Canada, are more conducive to producing faster runs because there is less air resistance.

Another technical highlight of the Beijing oval is the use of an eco-friendly cooling system that adopts carbon dioxide as a refrigerant, instead of the harmful substance Freon, for the first time in Olympic history.

The new system freezes quicker and helps maintain a consistent temperature, density and firmness of ice across the track, allowing skaters to push their limits.

The Beijing leg of the 2023-24 ISU speed skating World Cup series is expected to wow the world's best speedsters upon their return to the Chinese capital, Kim said.

"The Ice Ribbon is not only one of the most beautiful venues, it also boasts a very fast track," he said.

"So we'd like to come back here regularly for more ISU events. We are very excited for the ISU World Cup because again athletes loved to skate here in 2022 and I'm sure they'll be so happy to be back."

The Ice Ribbon is scheduled to host the Beijing leg of the World Cup from Nov 17-19.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from