Young at heart get their skates on

Updated: Jul 18, 2022 China Daily Print
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Under the Hanjiang Bay Bridge in Wuhan, Hubei province, 66-year-old Liu Yongjian becomes the center of his teammates. ZHU XIYONG/for China Daily

In the eyes of many people, roller skating is a fashionable but somewhat dangerous sport that should be solely the preserve of teenagers. However, there are a group of "old kids" in Wuhan, who prove that older people can also be transformed into "cyclone boys".

In early summer, in neighborhoods of Hankou Jiangtan Phase 1, Phase 3, Qiaokou Gutian Bridge and Hanyang Qintai Grand Theater, a group of elderly roller skating enthusiasts can be seen every day. They are called, and have earned the nom de guerre, the "wind-chasing old boys".

"Everyone takes me as the center and makes a big circle," says 66-year-old Liu Yongjian, standing in the middle of a group of the elderly roller skaters, and shouting instructions. He is the coach of the Flying Eagles Roller Skating Team, and figure skating is his specialty.

On the square of Hanyang Qintai Grand Theater, 67-year-old Shu Tao, as light as a swallow, passes through rows of flat slalom piles, and his freestyle elegance has stunned the spectators. As the coach of the Qintai training base for the Hubei Pioneer Roller Skating Team, he says he mainly teaches the older guys to do freestyle slalom. In his spare time, he likes to sit under a tree outside the court and play the saxophone quietly.

In the evening, "Batman" makes a dramatic appearance by the Yangtze River in Sanyang Square, Hankou River Beach. He immediately attracts many onlookers. The Batman costume has been made by "Kaka". When the wings are opened, it is 6 meters wide and weighs 13 kilograms. The 65-year-old "Kaka" (Liu Jianguo) is a retired bus driver. He likes roller skating while dressing up as a clown or in other costumes. He can be regularly seen on the streets of Wuhan, adding a bit of color to daily life.

Zhu Dezhen, 64, is the captain of the Hubei Pioneer Roller Skating Team. She had just retired when she was paralyzed for a year due to a severe lumbar disc hernia. Her husband is a roller skating coach who encouraged her to join the team.

The first time she put on roller skates, she was about to stand up but fell heavily on the sofa. She fell many times but she was stubborn and never gave up. After mastering the basic roller skating skills, she also learned freestyle slalom. "Roller skating saved my life and got me back on my feet," she says.

The love for roller skating has attracted many young people. The 62-year-old Long Xingwen, captain of the Old Boys Roller Skating Club, says the skills and sportsmanship of the elderly have ignited the curiosity of countless younger enthusiasts. In 2017, he founded the Happy Children's Roller Skating Club and served as the head coach. In the past five years, more than 200 children have joined the club.

Hu Diefei is 62. Her first contact with roller skating was in 2018. In just four years, she jumped from a student to a teacher and is now the roller skating ballroom dance teacher of the Gutianqiao Branch of the Hubei Pioneer Roller Skating Team. "I once rode across half of China and spent 10 years in the Wuhan Winter Swimming Team. When I was about to retire, I found a new hobby. I came out every day to skate with my old friends. I was very happy," she says. They are intensively rehearsing their new piece Blue Sky Dream, which will be performed at the 10th anniversary celebration of Wuhan Roller Skating Association.

Hu, in a long dress, leads a group of figure roller skating teammates to glide in "swallow style" under the Gutian Bridge in the Hanjiang Bay Sports Park. Her posture was graceful, like a light and vigorous bird flapping its wings. At the end of the song, she moved to the sidelines. "Roller skating is not just a sport for young people. The elderly can still skate wonderfully," she says.

Long Xingwen, 62, trains with his "old boy roller skating dragon team". ZHU XIYONG/for China Daily


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