Qingdao 2015 World Leisure Games 

Credit : Kris Kovalik
Credit : Kris Kovalik

The Qingdao 2015 World Leisure Games were held at the end of September in China. We prepared some questions for the skaters right after the competitions and collected their answers and feedbacks.


1. What was interesting about this trip?

2. Tell us something about this event? 

3. What are your feelings about the Mixed Category in Classic?

4. What is the difference between European and Asian skating?

5. Did you get some important or interesting experience?

Credit : Kris Kovalik
Credit : Kris Kovalik

Carolina Villavicencio :


1. What was different for me in this trip is that I had never competed in a mixed competition before, it was a really hard but cool experience. Also, the organization was amazing, there was a special place to stay with the other athletes of the Leisure Games and for the competition, and the best thing was that I could share all that experience with really good friends.


2. The World Leisure Games is a very important event held every five years, in which 17 sports have the opportunity to make a competition event. Knowing that Freestyle Slalom is now part of such an important competition, I feel honored to be part of it.


3. It was the first time that I participated in a competition like that, I knew it was going to be challenging because you have to be more focused on your Classic run to do a good performance. It was a good first experience to be all together, but skating in your own category has its advantages.


4. Well, I think that everyone has their style, even in America we have another style of Freestyle Slalom. But in general, Asian skaters’ Freestyle movements, like Zhang Hao’s or Su Fei Qian’s, are very smooth, and their hard tricks in Classic match perfectly with their style and music, which makes them stand out.


5. I always get an experience from events, and this time it was from being with athletes from other sports, it made me very happy to be there, and after every event, I am glad to see that my sport is becoming more and more popular. I also recommend skating in Laixi because they have an incredible floor. Qingdao is a completely different from other cities in China, with such beautiful buildings and places to visit.

Credit : Kris Kovalik
Credit : Kris Kovalik

Alessandro Cola :


1. The most interesting thing in this trip was for sure the Main Event during which the Freestyle Battle took place. I had never participated in an event where there were more than 8000 athletes from all corners of the world competing in more than 9 different disciplines. To be here together, and share the village, trainings, feelings and tiredness with them, was very emotional. When I first arrived, it was really strange because nobody could speak English. I managed to check in and find the building where my room was  just with the help of a young Chinese skater called "Tiger" (who is really strong, trust me). The following day I met the "foreigners" team and that's when the real adventure started. In 4 days I met a lot of people and I came back to Italy with lots of new friends.


2. Everything was perfectly organized. The opening ceremony was very exciting, a lot of authorities were present along with a band of traditional Chinese music. At the event, there was a large audience and many volunteers that supported us greatly clapping their hands, asking for pictures, autographs and interviews for 2 days (I personally counted at least 70 autographs and more than 10 professional photographers). It felt like we were famous football players trying to "manage" a lot of fans. All of this has been very hard to deal with, but also quite refreshing!

The competition was really hard because of the Chinese participants, who were very fierce.

Being in the finals for both classic and speed slalom was an unexpected success. Me and Batiz Ricardo (Mexico) did our best to get better in the final rankings, and in the end we got very good results.


3. Competing against all categories: men, women, juniors and seniors, was probably the most difficult thing I've ever experienced but also the most exciting and gratifying. Many think that juniors and women were disadvantaged in the mixed classic, but this competition actually demonstrated that the difference between categories is insignificant. In the 20 finalists all categories were equally represented, and there were also surprises such as Qin Yu Quing, aged only 11, who got 4th place with an elegant and technically high performance. I did a very good classic, not just because I got a good ranking, but also because I managed to make the judges smile and make the audience cheer during the qualifying phase and the finals.


4. The difference is noticeable in many factors. European skaters are much more muscular and powerful, Asians are more rounded and fast. Asian choreographies are very polished and their freestyle combos very technical, compared to Europeans who prefer trick combos and easier footwork. In the tricks, Asian skaters are for sure the best, while Europeans are better at shift tricks. I noticed that in Europe there are trick variations that are still unknown in Asia, especially in shift tricks. Unfortunately, Asian skaters have great difficulties in sitting tricks, for example, only the best can do footgun wheelings whereas it is a "must do" among European skaters. The World Championships that will take place in Turin, Italy will be a amazing event.


5. The Leisure Games are like the Mediterranean Games or Universiades. It's a great event that involves an entire city, besides 8000 athletes and more than 2000 volunteers participating in the organization. Skating is not an Olympic sport, and considering my age I think I will never be able to take part in an Olympic competition, but the Leisure Games have been like a small "Olympic game" for me. It gave me a lot of experience that I will keep in my heart for my entire life. What made me laugh the most was when,t the end of the competition, some Chinese skaters went out from the skating area, whistling my classic music's chorus. Really incredible. Leaving Italy, I decided that this would be my last competition: competing against younger athletes and having less and less time to train was too difficult, but all the emotions and the support from the audience, volunteers and other skaters gave me the strength and the motivation to go on and compete for at least another year. 


I encourage everybody to go to the next Leisure Games in 5 years! This is a unique and unforgettable experience! Absolutely the best competition and sport experience in my career.



Credit : Kris Kovalik
Credit : Kris Kovalik

Marianna Mercado :


1. The most interesting thing about this trip was to see all the great skaters of China, the level here is really high and their style is amazing. It was also a good experience to watch how they train and witness their dedication.


2. It was a huge event, not just for freestyle slalom. Qingdao 2015 World Leisure Games was a major event and played an important role in promoting the sports in Qingdao. It included both categories of classic and speed slalom, and we could participate as international guests.


3. I thinks it’s better to divide into categories, because you give more skaters a chance to compete and get classified. 


4. Despite their different styles, the technical level is high for both. I think that Asian skaters are like feathers because they skate really light, but I admire both styles. 


5. Yes, I think the whole trip was an amazing experience. Not just to see the incredible Asian skaters, but also for their country. It was my first time in China and I really liked it. The people were all very nice and showed great dedication and discipline.

Credit : Kris Kovalik
Credit : Kris Kovalik

Victor Mazacotte : 


1. The difference is that the Chinese people support Freestyle too much, I mean, they spend a lot of money in it. I saw that the Chinese had built a kind of city for athletes. Everything was prepared for competitors. The mascots and posters were everywhere. Everything had the name of the event,  even the water bottles. What impressed me? You have to pass security checks every time you enter or exit from the hotel or the competition and the backpacks must be checked by X-ray. The restaurant employees were working 24 hours a day because it was opened almost all the time (from 6 am to 00h). There were TV cameras everywhere, I’ve even been interviewed three times.


2. The organization was incredible. 9 Sports were represented, and there were at least 500 volunteers. The Skating competition was one of the biggest of the event. The competition was held in a giant sports center, with about 150 skaters attending. There were thousands of euros in prize money. For example, the winner of classic and speed junior (Zhang Hao) got € 1,400 in classic, and € 840 in speed. Simply amazing.


3. I think it’s the first time that there are mixed categories. I believe it’s unfair, a child does not have the same level as a senior (even though sometimes there are exceptions: Sofia, Sergey, Liu Bo, Li Wen Zhou...). From my point of view, there shouldn’t be mixed categories competitions. Many children could have won in their category.


4. Now, the only thing that differentiates Asians from Europeans is the style of skating. The level has increased in Europe, especially in Russia and France. The World Championship this year will be amazing. The Chinese took the podium for at least 4 years in a row, but this WFSC may be different… 

*I think that Europeans usually don't train until 2 am, like I saw in China hahaha*


5. In each competition you learn something new, but I still can’t not control my nerves. We have much to learn from them and they from us. I met new people and made new friends, I would like to see them in all futur competitions. 


Tip: If you travel to China, you should have a translator that works offline installed on your smartphone because most Chinese skaters don't speak English (Google translator, I love you). And the most important thing you need if you go alone for a walk: Maps offline.

Credit : Kris Kovalik
Credit : Kris Kovalik

Krzysztof Kowalik :


1. It was my first time in China, so there were tons of new things. Above all, I'm amazed by how big the event was and by its organisation in general. Also most of the events I've been to were held in big cities, while here I ended up in a small Chinese village. It was a fantastic opportunity to see more of China, changing from the usual crowded city streets and sky scrapers.


2. It was held in a village next to Qingdao, in a beautiful and modern sports complex. Despite some quirks with our check-in the organisation was very professional, we got a lot of attention from the crew, cheers for that! Then, there was a great number of very good Chinese skaters that I didn't know before. Oh, and delicious food!


3. I think it wasn’t a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there’s a difference in the technical level or abilities between women and men, it was very tight and you can notice it by the results at the end. That’s actually why I think there should be a king and a queen of the ball, not a single winner of the mixed competition.


4. The main difference is in the training. I found that Asian skaters learn step by step, paying a good deal of attention to learning basics and stripping down difficult technical tricks into easier steps or exercises, while Europeans often tackle on hard tricks from the start, sometimes too early if you ask me. The Asian way, without wonder, reminds me a lot of martial arts training that I used to do before I started skating. Also, a noticeable difference is in their style which is connected to the training and the attention they give to correct posture and balance. I’m big fan of the Asian style, it can be seen somewhat reflected in my own, as well as in the way I train and teach others.


5. Yes! I got my own Chinese name :) ‘grin’! But more important, I found that Chinese guys are very friendly and open, though they're just being very shy, especially when they go to events in Europe. Don't be, guys! Even with the language barrier we've been able to have a lot of fun together in Qingdao, surely we can in Europe as well. By the way, I learned that one can totally communicate using emoticons and body language!

Polina Semenova for WorldSlalomSeries.com

Proofreading by Chloe Seyres

Photo by Kowalik Krzysztof

October 2015