CHINESE SKIER Dinigeer Yilamujiang was born in a region that historians think was one of the sites where skiing originated.
While ancient remains of skis have been found in Russia dating back 6,000 years, a similarly ancient cave painting showing human figures sliding on small platforms on slopes over a herd of animals was found in Altay, Xinjiang.
Historians say it may be of similar age or older: estimates of its antiquity range from 5,000 to 10,000 years. But whichever is older, it is clear that people were skiing in the area from the dawn of recorded history.
Dinigeer was born within 30 kilometers of the site to Hatibaji Ruxian, a teacher, and a professional sportsman: her father, Ilhamjan Miraji, was a former professional cross-country skier. He took the bronze at a Chinese national cross-country skiing competition in 1993.
Dinigeer, pronounced Dil-nigar (beautiful-heart) in her home region, was born in 2001. When she was eight, in 2009, the local authorities started promoting winter sports.
It was natural that her father Ilhamjan became the local coach—and that his daughter, who had always been very sporty, should join his stable of about 20 cross-country skiers. But she did a variety of sports, originally focusing on track and field events. It was only in 2017, at the age of 16, that she became a competitive skier.
She won a number of prizes, coming to national attention in 2019 – and that led to her being selected to be a torch bearer at the winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022.
Some Western media, unfortunately, continued their efforts to politicize the games in a negative way, with the New York Times write-up implying that her origins from the Uyghur community was somehow suspect. The reporters received some humorous digs from the public for their evidence-free accusation. (See meme below.)
Picture at the top shows Dinigeer Yilamujiang at a 2020 event in Dresden, Germany, and was taken by Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0