Upon arrival at the skater’s hotel on Tuesday half of the team decided to get away from the hotel and venture out into the city with a few of the parents. Exploring all around Haining City the group shopped at the “famous” leather market. After that it was on to the parent’s hotel, which just happened to be in the shopping district. The skaters enjoyed lunch at KFC then shopped at shoes stores, jewelry stores and there are plans to go back to a “mall” that has over 100 shops that are small and owned by the locals. These stores offer everything you can imagine and they are willing to deal on price. We all even learned a few things along the way. First of all, the smog in China is really bad and most people drive mo-peds. The next thing we learned it that China is not a country where pedestrians have the right of way. In fact, if “mo-ped dodging” were a sport, Hailey Leech would be a world champion before even skating a race. Other interesting facts are that there is a lack of birds flying around and you cannot trust manhole covers or drain covers for stability.
Today was the last practice for the team before races being tomorrow. They look as ready as they ever could. The skaters seem quiet and we are hoping that it is because they are focused. The track is fast and inside a beautiful facility. This will obviously eliminate the chance for rain delays. They have not turned on the air conditioning as of yet and we are all wondering what turning it on when races begin will do to the track conditions. Most say that it will be a positive thing.
The opening ceremonies were held tonight and the USA skaters looked great as they all walked in, two by two. Megan Gillis was the flag bearer and at 13-years-old she is the youngest member of this year’s USA Inline Speed Skating World team. The opening ceremonies began shortly after with presentations of colorful dances by elementary school children followed by lantern dances and a fashion show of Haining City’s finest leather. This exhibition was held at the city’s convention center, also known as the sports arena. Just as in most previous years the building was filled to capacity. We are all looking forward to bringing you some racing news once tomorrow begins.