Warm welcome home for skills winners

Ma Lixia
Shanghai delegation returns from Russia after helping China win 16 gold medals, 14 silver, five bronze and three other awards at the 45th WorldSkills Competition.
Ma Lixia

The delegation of players, coaches and experts from Shanghai who won two gold medals, a silver and three other awards at the 45th WorldSkills Competition enjoyed a warm welcome home at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport on Thursday.

The competition in Kazan, Russia, ended on Tuesday with China winning 16 gold medals, 14 silver, five bronze and 17 other prizes. The 46th competition, in 2021, will be held in Shanghai.

Though tired after their long journey, the delegation couldn't wait to celebrate with their families and friends. They said their painstaking preparations and countless sleepless nights ahead of the competition had all been worth it. 

Warm welcome home for skills winners
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Lu Yiwei, who won a gold medal in floristry at the 45th WorldSkills Competition, receives a warm welcome on his return to Shanghai.

Lu Yiwei, a 19-year-old Shanghai Urban Construction Engineering School student won a gold award in floristry. It was the second time in a row that a Shanghai competitor had taken the title.

Lu, who was once allergic to pollen but was cured after persistent training and medication, was the youngest member of the Shanghai delegation. He is enrolling at the Shanghai Institute of Technology in September to major in landscape design.

“This award is just a start for me, I will try to improve my skills and learn more,” said Lu. He said he wanted to help those representing China in the next competition with his experience and skills.

“Chinese players need to study different design styles from other countries such as the European contracted style and Korean elaborate manner,” Lu said. “Learn from them and make it our own.”

When Lu jumped onto the podium with the Chinese national flag on on his back, Zhu Yingying, the floristry master who was also the expert in the Chinese team who coached Lu, was struggling to hold back tears.

“It was such a victory,” Zhu said. During the four-day competition, the players had to finish nine tasks, four of which were what the competitors called “surprises” for they were only revealed when the contests started.

She said that unlike the last time when she was sure the gold medal would go to the China, this year, Zhu was anxious until the very last moment.

“We met stronger rivals like Britain and Switzerland,” said Zhu. “And we didn't know what the question setters would ask us to do, nor did we know anything about the materials.”

Warm welcome home for skills winners
Ti Gong

Lu's interpretation of the last task set during the floristry competition.

Zhu said the last task remained a secret until the last moment.

“The players were given 60 bottles and a Matryoshka doll,” Zhu said. “The request was simple, use all bottles and the doll to make a floristry scene.”

The players had only 15 minutes to plan, and two hours to improvise. Lu managed to finish within the time allowed and got the highest mark.

In previous tasks, Lu’s work was once not appreciated by the judges, for his oriental aesthetics.

“Lu has a big heart,” Zhu said. “He was always calm and quick to react.”

Warm welcome home for skills winners
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

China Eastern air stewardess Wu Jiani arrives in Shanghai on Thursday after winning the catering service competition.

Surprises and cultural shocks didn’t just happen to Lu.

Wu Jiani, an air stewardess from China Eastern Airlines who ranked ninth in the catering service competition and won a medal, said compared with other players many of whom were Europeans, she had innate disadvantages.

“When it comes to making western dishes such as beef stroganoff, it was hard to beat the Europeans,” said Wu, who flinched a bit when she poured wine into a pan while making the dish.

But still, Wu made a huge progress for the Chinese team. Last time in the competition of catering service, the best Chinese player ranked 14th.

The problems Xiao Zitong and Feng Zhutian ran into were more awkward. The pair were master’s students from Jiao Tong University who won silver in the Internet security competition.

The task they faced included infrastructure setup and security, cybersecurity incident response, digital forensic investigations and application security and a capture-the-flag (CTF) challenge.

“Apparently those who designed the tasks were not professional enough or they were playing tricks on all players,” Xiao said. “They made tasks that could only be done with Internet access, but we didn’t have it.”

Xiao said among the 70 tasks, the best team Russia who also won the gold medal, managed to crack 24.

“Most of the other teams, including us, finished less than 10,” Xiao said.

Apart from the silver medal, the pair said what they considered most rewarding was they now had a deeper understanding of Internet security.

“It covers all sorts of possibilities, we still have a lot to learn,” Xiao said.

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