Italian coach witnesses China's winter sports growth

2021-03-05 12:08:09

Capelli Dario. [Photo/Xinhua] BEIJING -- At the Xiaohaituo Mountain, in the Yanqing district in northwest Beijing, seven snow tracks are taking shape along the peaks and valleys of the hillside. On a track with a drop of more than 800 meters, athletes from the Chinese Paralympic alpine skiing team are training for Super-G, and the high-speed gliding sends the powdery snow flying. On the precipice beside the track, Italian Capelli Dario watches every athlete descend from the starting point at high speed. When he catches a para-skier passing by with non-standard movement, he leans forward and yells "down, down, down!" About a week ago the test run for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games was completed. "I'm very satisfied with their performance because they were really good. There weren't steep slopes like this in China. I'm happy to see that they perform well on them," Dario said. The 50-year-old is now the head coach of the Chinese Paralympic alpine skiing team. In fact, he created the team after having arrived in China in July 2018, and trained the recruits, most of whom were amateurs then, into professionals. Having started skiing at 5 years old, Dario has participated in numerous alpine ski races as a competitor and won several times on both national and international stages. Having earned an Italian national coaching level-2 certification in 1993, when he was just 23, Dario began coaching para skiing three years later and his achievements as a coach include several gold medals from the Torino 2006 and PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. Alpine skiing, known as "the sport of the brave", has a history of about 100 years in some countries. In China, however, it is a young sport. Through all these years' training, Dario found out that the sport is a good chance for the athletes to start a new life with more confidence and glory, while in the athletes' view, Dario's rich experience in the sport contributes greatly. One of Dario's proteges, 26-year-old Liu Sitong, has been training for five years and her best result so far is the title at the Italian World Cup. "Dario looks rough, but in fact is nice and caring," Liu commented on her coach. Dario's considerateness shows when he helps every athlete change equipment and patiently teaches his players what kind of wax to choose, and how to repair and maintain their equipment. Liu Sitong recalled in one world cup match, she was not in good condition. "It seems that no one can understand how I felt when I stood at the starting point." Then Dario shared his experience as an athlete with her that athletes need to conquer themselves before they are able to beat their opponents. "It gave me great encouragement. He also taught me how to cross the flag gate, how to hit the pole, and how to make breakthroughs without injuring myself," Liu Sitong said. Sun Hongsheng, 27, said: "Before he came, my result always lingered around the 20th. Under his guidance, I can be among the top four or five." Sun had acrophobia when he first tried alpine skiing. "Dario took me to a psychologist, and always tried to find a way for me to overcome this problem. He would tell jokes to distract me when I was on the cable car." This Spring Festival, Dario and his team members gave up the opportunity to reunite with their families and continued training in Chongli, Hebei to prepare for the Winter Paralympic Games. "The pandemic is affecting us. We couldn't go overseas and lost opportunities to compete with other athletes. We don't have time to rest because we don't have time to waste. We need to continue training and to get the experience," Dario said. "We train six days a week with one day off. In the morning, we train on the snow track, and in the afternoon we train in the gym. We need to grow not only the technique but also the body. For now, they are good at techniques and they need to develop the power," Dario said. A provisional team of 70 has now been slimmed down to 26 in the training camp and just a few of them can make the trip to the 2022 Paralympics. "I'm trying to push them to their best conditions and teach them everything possible to the rivalry to Beijing," Dario said. "I love China. It's a beautiful country with very nice people. China is my family now. If possible, I can lead them to my hometown Italy for the 2026 winter Paralympic Games," he added.