Ice treat for China

Updated: 2012-12-20 19:47

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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Some of the world's leading snowboarders will gather in Beijing for the 11th Red Bull Nanshan Open slopestyle contest next month.

The event will be a treat for local fans of the sport and also provide an opportunity for budding Chinese stars to learn from the foreign experts.

Established in 2003, the Nanshan Open was upgraded to a five-star event (second tier on the World Snowboard Tour) this year and the prize money will reach a total of $65,000 for the coming edition.

The event will for the first time include female snowboarders. Six foreign female skiers and one qualifier will compete for the women's title on Jan 19, while the men's section will hit the ice with 20 top skiers and six qualifiers in action the following day at the Nanshan Ski Village.

The contest will provide a valuable learning experience for Chinese snowboarders as the gap between the hosts and their foreign counterparts has been described as similar to that of the Chinese and Brazilian soccer teams by local riders due to a lack of coaching and venues.

Slopestyle was included in the Winter Olympic program in July 2011, and will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014. China is yet to include the sport in the state-support system and no provincial or national teams for slopestyle have been put together.

The Nanshan event will have at least three spots in the men's heats available for Chinese riders.

"I have no ambition in the competition because the foreign riders are so much superior," said Chinese rider Zhu Hong (pictured), who will become the first female rider in China to take part in a WST five-star event if she wins the qualifier.

"I'm already very happy to have such close contact with the best in the game because I have only seen them in videos in the past," she said. "This year's event also provides much more opportunities for Chinese female riders as it will fill the country's void in women's slopestyle competition."

The 24-year-old, who will attempt a 540-degree spin at the Nanshan Open, started in half-pipe in 2003 and switched to slopestyle two years ago.

"Slopestyle is more free than the half-pipe. There are too many rules in half-pipe, but you can do anything you want in slopestyle," Zhu said. "The foreign female skiers can finish 720 or 900 spins, and they can do various corks and rodeos, but the Chinese are yet to master those tricks."