This past week Hillary Clinton met with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabaoin in Bejing. About the same time, I received an email through my YouTube channel (224,000 views of my videos so far!) from a Chinese Long Track Speedskater.
So I struck up an email conversation with Fei Chen & asked him a number of questions. China is a mystery to many Americans, and I bet we can seem odd to them too. I truly think that through the common ground of sports, we can increase our understanding of each other.
Fei sent me some pictures, and I repost them here, along with our conversation. I found his answers fascinating. Here he is skating.
1. You mentioned in one of your emails that Speedskating is a required course in some high schools & university. Are there university classes in speedskating?
Skating courses are hosted in highschools and universities in Northeast China only, should be in 4 provinces, they are LiaoNing, JiLin, Harbin and Inner Mongolia.
Other provinces are too hot in winter. Say, there is only one and a half month Ice period in Beijing every year. 40 days.
2. You say speed skating is very popular. How many races are there? and how many people race?
Speed skating is very popular in northeast China only. Even in Beijing, it is still not as popular as Ping-Pong Ball or Badminton.
Anyway, skating is much harder to get start than other games. I don’t know how many people race in China.:( Suppose there should be more than 1000 in China).
3. Describe the track in these photos, is it a 400m track? It looks interesting & quite different than anything I have ever seen before.
The track is converted from former bomb shelter, it is a 310m track. I skate there every weekend and some Wednesday.
This bomb shelter was made in the period of cold war, now those fortifications serve for peace purpose!
4. Until this year, speedskating is only on USA television once every 4 years, during the Olympics. How much TV/Video coverage is there of speed skating in China? Or do you need to use the internet to watch skating?
Almost the same in China. Comparing all Chinese people, very little people interest with skating. I have to look for skating videos via Internet.
5. What is more popular in China, short track, long track, or inline speedskating?
Short track. Because the policy of “gold medal driven”, the short track is more popular. But I believe most of people cannot tell the difference between short track and long track.
(Andrew editorial note: Hmmm, the Chinese & American public seem quite similar!)
6. My own starting style is loosely based on Chinese Skater Fentong Yu, what American skaters do you look at & enjoy watching their technique?
I learned American skater’s starting style from TV and Video from Internet. It looks a little bit of strange, I tried several times, I think American style has an advantage in short distance game, like 500m.
7. If you could travel to one place in the world to skate, where would it be?
Netherlands of course! I dreamed to skate on the river from one town to another.
When I was a little kid, I lived nearby the forbidden city. My father taught me to skate, he and I skate on the river around the forbidden city.
I remembered one of my leg fell into the river because the weak ice. Another young man fell into the river due to there was a hotwater pipeline under the river, so the ice above the is very weak. Finally he saved himself!
8. What kind of skates are you using in these photos? and is it hard to find equipment in china? are there skate shops?
a native Chinese product, named Fei-Hang (http://www.fhbd.com/products/product.asp). the professional equipment is a difficult to find in China. Some amateur device, like Hei-Long skates, is popular and easy to buy.
Some of my skater friends bought Maple and Viking skates via professional team, even second-handed from Chinese National Team. For my opinion, Fei-Hang is half professional equipment; it is good enough for me.
9. Are there many clubs where a skater can get good coaching? Are the skaters mostly young, or are there older skaters in China? what we call “Masters” speedskating, racing by people older than 30, is becoming more & more popular here in the USA.
There should be some “half-professional team” for young players in northeast China, some of them have chance to be promoted to province’s professional team even national team. The club is not popular in China.
Most of my skater friends in Beijing are over 40 years old.I am 31 years old. Suppose there should be more young skaters in northeast China
10. When you are not skating, what else do you do to keep in shape?
The track is open for all season, because it is converted from bomb shelter under the ground!!! Some time I skate inline speed skating. I have a pair of old fashioned 5 wheels in-line skates.
Also I like badminton.
Fei Chen did a 500m race recently, and here was his prize for winning! I think that is a bar of Russian chocolate!
Thanks Fei, I really appreciate the time you took to write these answers. Someday I’d like to race for chocolate as well!
Fei is a software engineer, and our conversations also strayed into the economic crisis. It is hitting hard there too.
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