Sep 08, 2016

    Chinese club's win boosts nation's push for winter sports


    NOW boasting access to the game's top echelon, a Beijing-based professional ice hockey club has embraced the challenge of promoting the niche sport while cultivating local talent for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

    The Beijing-based Kunlun Red Star, a newcomer to the Kontinental Hockey League, beat Admiral Vladivostok from Russia 6-3 as the host of a KHL game for the first time on Monday.

    The entry of the Beijing club was part of a China-Russia sports exchange. The signing ceremony was attended by President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on June 25 in Beijing.

    The two leaders spoke highly of the first game on the sidelines of the G20 Summit on Monday in Hangzhou, Zhejang province.

    Mr Xi said the game was of great importance in boosting the cooperation between the two countries in winter sports.

    Ice hockey exchanges between the two countries will help China raise the standard of the game and better prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, he added.

    Even though the KHL is not currently well-known in China, a very strong team can help gain attention and cultivate support as well as a fan base for ice hockey in China, said Emma Liao, president and vice-chairman of the board of Red Star.

    Inspired by President Xi, China unveiled a national plan to involve 300 million people in winter sports participation before 2022.

    Red Star's renowned Russian coach, Vladimir Yurzinov Jr, noted that the team's future will be anchored by development of Chinese talent.

    "We are committed to growing the game in China," he said.