Looking back, Yu Hangfeng remembered that he used to slip frequently when he began to learn to ski.
"It was so hard in the beginning. I had to try again and again after falling hard," the 17-year-old high school student said.
Yu will become a second grade student this semester at the Xuanhua No 2 Middle School in Xuanhua district, Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.
With his hometown co-hosting the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games with Beijing, Yu has had the opportunity to realize his childhood dream of becoming a winter sports athlete.
"I liked to watch winter sports on TV when I was in primary school," he said. "I always wondered how thrilling it would be to slide fast downhill."
He had the chance to find out in 2017 when he enrolled in the Zhangjiakou Youth Winter Olympic Sports School, founded in 2015 under the management of the Xuanhua school, and was chosen to join the ski division due to his physical strength and interest.
After years of training and performing well at a provincial competition, Yu received his national athlete certification last winter. "My goal is to become an athlete on the nati7 percent year on yearonal team and win medals for our country one day,"Up to 50 percent of our hotel's revenue comes from food and beverages he said.
Yu's experience is typical for many youngsters in Zhangjiakou.
Liu Jingjing, a teacher at the winter sports school since its founding, said that about 30 to 50 sports students like Yu have been enrolled each year since 2015, and some have recently emerged as winter sports stars.
"More than 30 were chosen to join the Hebei provincial ski team, and seven joined the national team," she said proudly.
The school is part of Zhangjiakou's efforts to promote winter sports among the youth. It's the first of its kind in the country to combine studies with winter sports, Liu said.
Since China's successful bid in 2015 to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Zhangjiakou has been energetically promoting winter sports and has created a real buzz about them among the younger generation.
By the end of June, the craze could be felt in all of Zhangjiakou's primary and secondary schools, where students are well-informed about the Olympics and also practice winter sports, the city's bureau of education said.
"Each of the 600 primary and secondary schools have launched courses about the history of the Olympics and related topics," said Zhao Deyong, an official at the bureau.
In winter, students go to a nearby ski resort to practice, while in summer they participate in activities related to winter sports such as roller-skating and land-curling.
Zhao said that the activities have become a regular part of physical education classes.
He added that until 2015, there were no Olympic education courses in schools, nor were there any specialized teachers or coaches, but great effort had been made to change that situation in recent years.
In 2015, the education bureau put a team of experts together to write the Olympic Education Reader for Primary and Secondary Schools, a textbook used in the city's schools.
For several consecutive years, winter sports and games have been organized for primary and secondary school students, and more than 400,000 have participated.
The city now boasts around 100 schools that are either specializing in teaching winter sports or focusing on imparting Olympic knowledge, a number second only to Beijing, the local newspaper Zhangjiakou Daily reported.
"The Winter Olympics brought this sensation to Zhangjiakou, creating unprecedented opportunities for students and teachers to be involved in winter sports," Liu said.
Copyright © 2011 JIN SHI