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Xinjiang skier has slopes stardom in his sights

Xinhua| Updated: October 26, 2023


Enthusiasts visit the ski resorts in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/seexinjiang.com]

Despite only having two years of experience on the snow, Aybek Caoletibek has already earned numerous accolades.

Specializing in cross-country skiing, the 13-year-old secured the top spot in Group B at the inaugural youth competition during the Winter Games in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region earlier this year.

"My physical fitness and skills are excellent," he proudly stated.

It was his exceptional physical condition and dedicated work ethic that caught the attention of Yerlebek Muratkhan, a coach at the Burqin County Amateur Sports School in Altay prefecture, situated in the remote northwestern corner of China.

Aybek's hometown, nestled at the foot of the Altay Mountains, is a considerable distance from Burqin. To enhance his skills, the boy crafted a pair of wooden skis at home and practiced on his own, in addition to his daily training at school during the winter.

"I train every day. When my friends see it, they are curious, and I tell them skiing is my passion," the Kazakh teenager said.

Yerlebek is clearly impressed.

"He's a promising talent and also possesses the potential to become an outstanding athlete," the coach remarked.

Inspired by the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, the prefecture, blessed with abundant ice and snow resources, has intensified its efforts to construct facilities, accelerating the popularization and promotion of winter sports. There are now four sizable professional skiing resorts in Altay, and each county or city has established at least four ice rinks.

"The equipment is not cheap, but the local government provides us with support, and children don't have to spend a penny," Yerlebek said.

Aybek has had ample opportunities to compete from a young age, covering various locations in just two years across Xinjiang, and he has honed his skills rapidly by competing in different events.

"The competitors are all strong, and through these matches, I can identify my weaknesses and focus on improving myself during training," Aybek said.


Enthusiasts visit the ski resorts in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/seexinjiang.com]

The progress of Aybek and his friends has also attracted attention from professionals.

Jilin province, renowned for its extensive winter sports culture, has leveraged its strengths to collaborate with Altay in supporting Xinjiang. The province continuously sends national-level coaches to assist in local talent development every year.

Earlier this year, national cross-country skiing champion Lin Guanghao visited Altay to demonstrate technical skills and offer training advice to locals.

Aybek trained four hours every day alongside Lin.

"Techniques are constantly evolving. I hope to enhance the professionalism of local coaches and athletes through my efforts," Lin said.

The right sporting philosophy also plays a pivotal role.

Li Yanhu, an expert in sports and health research, gave a lecture titled "Spinal Health and Sports" to young people in a sports community activity held in Burqin.

Li said that coaches and children need to grasp scientific sports and protection methods to better develop themselves. "Winter sports are both intense and risky, and some even challenge their own limits. Therefore, learning how to protect themselves is essential," Li said.

During the Beijing Winter Olympics, Aybek closely followed the cross-country skiing competitions on TV every day. He views Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a skier from Altay who was one of the two torchbearers at the Games' opening ceremony, as his role model and hopes to represent China at the Olympics someday.

Aybek has gained a clearer understanding of his path to pursuing his dreams.

"Physical health comes first. By maintaining good health and adhering to scientific training, I believe that one day, I will achieve my dream," he said.