By sportswriters Jia Xiaotong, Li Dian, Yan Linyun
CHANGCHUN, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) — A special single-blade ice skating vehicle is gaining popularity among the elderly in northeast China’s Jilin Province with the 2022 Winter Olympic Games fast approaching.
On the ice of Yitong River in Changchun City, dozens of people in their 50s and 60s are skating briskly on uncommon homemade single-blade ice skate vehicles, which are typically composed of a couple of wooden boards and one single ice blade. Assisted by a pair of ice axes, people make the single-blade ice vehicle move swiftly.
“We call the skate vehicle ‘one-legged donkey’, which was a particularly popular sport in northeast China in the 1960s and 1970s. We often skated on this ice vehicle when we were young,” said Zhang Ling, head of the fans group of this unique winter sport.
Every day, at 9 a.m., Zhang Ling goes onto the ice to clear the ice with a broom, sweep up a track and wait for his friends to arrive. They convene on the ice every morning to practice and play.
The amateur group devised various skating patterns to play and compete under the guidance of Zhang Ling.
With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics approaching, people’s enthusiasm for ice and snow sports has been rekindled in China.
“According to my childhood memories, I used several pieces of planks and one ice blade to make a ‘one-legged donkey. We uploaded clips to the video platforms such as TikTok and Kuaishou, which attracted a lot of participants,” Zhang Ling said.
“When I found out about these fans on Douyin, I immediately joined the group and felt like I had found my childhood memories,” said Sun Lei, a fan of the single-blade ice skating.
“The ‘one-legged donkey’ evolved from traditional Manchu ice and snow sport of ‘skating cart’. Owing to its easy fabrication, lightweight body, fast speed, and flexibility of control, this single-blade ice skating was a popular ice sport in northeast China from the 1960s to the 1980s,” said Zhang Shouwei, dean of the School of Physical Education of Northeast Normal University, adding that it dropped gradually in the 1990s because of increasing supplies of indoor fitness and entertainment programs in winter.
“I have been working on this ice skate for two days,” said Li Chunlei, a fan of the “one-legged donkey” skating. He showed everyone his latest piece of work with an orange pedal, blue ice skate, and a small mobile camera that can be installed in front of the new single-legged ice skate to shoot videos.
Li Chunlei began to participate in the single-blade ice skating in December 2020. In just two months, he has made six ice skates for himself and his friends. “This time, it has been improved. The appearance is more beautiful and it is easier to maintain balance on it,” said Li.
Among this team of fans, the oldest is nearly 70 years old, but many young people have joined the team. “A lot of youngsters in their 30s have recently come to join us, and I hope they can also feel the joy of this sport,” Zhang Ling said. Enditem