Students in a primary school in Xianghe county, Hebei province, take a gateball lesson, Dec 7, 2016.
Once a leisure sport only popular among senior citizens in China, gateball has enjoyed a surge in mass participation by players of all ages, as highlighted by the expanding scale of the Chinese Gateball Championship.
The 2017 edition of the annual championship, which was established in 2005 by the Chinese Gateball Association, is expected to receive 2,000 teams to compete in regional preliminaries held in 30 provinces and municipalities through October. That month, 120 squads will advance to the national finals that will be held in Shandong province between Oct 23 and 29, the CGA said on Tuesday.
“The popularity of gateball has expanded out of its traditional circle to intrigue more young amateurs and we are excited to see more teams established to join us in this year's championship,” Weng Jiaren, president of CGA, said at the launching ceremony for the 2017 championship on Tuesday.
“As the country promotes a mass fitness campaign for better public health and more sports participation, I believe this event will contribute greatly to the national program,” he said.
Last year about 1,600 teams, consisting of 20,000 players from across the country, participated in the championship.
Gateball is a mallet team sport played between two five-a-side squads on a rectangular field. Each of the 10 players is assigned a wooden ball and alternately strike the ball with a stick to try to hit the goal pole through as many as three gates on the court to score. The team finishing with the most points at the end of the 30-minute match wins.
Introduced from its birthplace, Japan, gateball began to grow in China as a popular leisure sport among seniors in the 1980s due to its non-contact motion and low access in facilities.
China won consecutive titles at the quadrennial World Gateball Championship in 2010 in Shanghai and in 2014 in Niigata, Japan and is expected to achieve a three-peat at the 2018 event, which is still in the bidding process, Weng said.
Beijing-based Defenglida Group, a conglomerate featuring diversified sectors, including tourism, wellness, film and culture, signed a five-year partnership with CGA to co-host and promote the championship from 2016-2020.
The company will host the 2017 national finals at its Kunyu Mountain International Tourism and Wellness Base in the coastal city Weihai in Shandong.
“The nature of gateball, coupled with the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, stay in line with our corporate culture and the services we provide to customers to enhance their wellbeing,” said Li Jifeng, chairman and chief executive of Defenglida.