Skaters compete in a short track speed skating competition during the 2017 Shanghai Primary and Middle School Ice Sport Meet. (Ma Yue/SHINE)
Shanghai has a subtropical climate, but weather is no longer a controlling factor in sports once reserved for wintry weather. Witness the Nigerian women's bobsled team that recently qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics, the indoor ski slopes in Dubai and a Florida-based team in North America's National Hockey League.
So it should come as no surprise that 400 Shanghai students from 30 schools met at Pudong's Feiyang Skating Center last month to compete on the ice. The two-day event featured ice hockey, short track speed skating and figure skating.
Thirteen-year-old Wei Yining and her twin sister Wang Yiyuan — one took father's surname and the other, her mother's — were part of a synchronized skating team. The seventh-graders from Shanghai East Experimental School have been taking weekend figure skating lessons for four years.
"We were taken to an ice rink by a friend to watch her skate, and we fell in love with skating," Wang told Shanghai Daily. "Figure skating is beautiful, though the training can be tiring and difficult sometimes."
Both girls had practiced ballet before taking up ice skating, which helped them in their new sport. But, as in most sports, injuries are inevitable. Wei suffered swollen knees from the rigors of spinning and landing and was forced by her mother to rest for a year.
Their mother keeps a firm hand on the girls' hobby.
"I make sure that skating does not affect their academic performance," she said. "Next year, there will be fewer skating sessions because they will need more time for homework."
The twins' passion for ice skating has been costly for the family. A 90-minute lesson for two costs 800-1,000 yuan (US1), and the girls have been taking lessons twice a week. Attending youth competitions outside Shanghai also chalks up expenses.
"To be frank, the cost is a bit too much for a working class family like ours," said the girls' mother. "I have supported them only because they showed such great passion for it."
But she admitted that there have been benefits. Performing in front of an audience has given the girls courage, self-confidence, stamina and self-discipline.
"It's just a hobby for my girls," their mother said. "To become professional, you need to start at a much younger age and put more hours and money into it."