Racing through history

Updated: 2015-01-10 07:29

By Erik Nilsson in Changchun(China Daily)

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Racing through history

China's Vasaloppet in Changchun witnesses hundreds of elite skiers competing to get their first China stamp on their Vasaloppet 'passport' since the country officially joined the global organization last summer. Wang Jing / China Daily

An international competition based on a 500-year-old Swedish folktale comes to Northeast China.

He was skiing - for his life.

Swedish nobleman Gustav Ericsson Vasa raced 90 kilometers through timberlands on skis to escape the army of Danish king Christian II - aka "Christian the Tyrant" - in 1520, the story goes.

The monarch had just massacred about 90 subversive Swedish aristocrats - including Vasa's parents - he'd invited to Stockholm under the guise of reconciliation.

Vasa fled on skis, inspired a rebellion, crushed Christian II, dissolved the Kalmar Union (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) and became Sweden's king.

Indeed, the stuff of legend.

Half a millennium later, this myth is manifesting as a reality in Northeast China's Changchun.

Jilin's provincial capital has since 2003 hosted the Vasaloppet cross-country ski race commemorating the lore of Vasa's dramatic escape.

But Jan 1 and 2 marked the first time the competition was staged in Changchun since China officially became an associate member of the 20-nation Worldloppet last year.

About 2,000 skiers joined the events, including pros, amateurs, students and children.

About 100 of the roughly 480 elite skiers who finished the 50km race - Changchun's longest - are Chinese. The rest hail from 33 countries. Most flew in from Scandinavia.

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