Recently Alaska Pacific University President Bob Onders traveled to China with Alaska Governor Bill Walker and 40 other leaders in the Alaska business realm in a group effort to strengthen ties with the foreign country, diversify the state economy and create more opportunities at home and away.
During the trip, President Onders signed a memorandum of understanding with the Heilongjiang Province Sports Administration to start working towards a collaborative Nordic skiing program that will have APU’s athletes training alongside China’s top athletes in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Coach Erik Flora said they’re still in the exploratory phase of the relationship with China’s skiers. They’ve discussed everything from coaching to skiing at the Thomas Training Center on Eagle Glacier.
“This year we had 10 athletes at the Olympic Games and a gold medal,” Flora said. “Our teamwork, hard training, and optimistic approach is our strength. Our collaboration with China can open new opportunities to learn, sharpening our advantage in the next Olympics in China.”
Already, since the signing of the MOU, representatives from Team China have visited the Anchorage and Eagle Glacier training grounds. More are expected later in the summer.
“The agreement with China has so far highlighted our incredible training environment,” Flora said. “We have always believe that Alaska is the best training environment in the world, with access to the mountains and wilderness. It’s fun to see that others around the world see the same.”
President Onders echoed that sentiment, saying “The APU Nordic Ski Center has done something really unique in getting a traditionally non Nordic country competitive on the world wide scale. I’m excited to see how this can bolster us further.”
Beyond the Nordic team, President Onders said the delegation made further connections in China, which he hopes will bloom into potential internships in China for APU students, as well as an exchange program.
One of the connections was with Yingdi Wang, State of Alaska China Trade Representative. Yingdi came to APU in 1983 and graduated with both his bachelors and masters degrees. He now works as the lead logistics coordinator for the Governor in China.
“He was great to speak with, especially because he loved his experience at APU,” Onders said. “To me, if we’re going to have relationships with China, people like him are key.”