Yang Yang: From Queen on the Ice to Winter Olympics Ambassador

2021-08-30 16:37:00 Source:China Today Author:WANG JING
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In 2002 at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, Yang Yang became China’s first Winter Olympics gold medalist. Since then, her name has been written into the history of China’s winter sports, and she has become a legend. Today, serving as chairperson of the Athletes’ Commission of 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee and vice president of World Anti-Doping Agency, she has been busy assisting in organizing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

The Laureus World Sports Academy member Yang Yang visits a Laureus Sport For Good Project prior to the Laureus World Sports Awards 2015 at the Feiyang Skating Centre on April 13, 2015 in Shanghai, China.

Queen on the Ice

Born in Tangyuan County in Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province, Yang began attending the Qitaihe Sports School at the age of 11 and soon showed exceptional skating talent. At the age of 15, she won the national championships in the 1,500-meter short-track speed skating event. After that, she joined Heilongjiang’s elite sports team and won multiple gold medals at national competitions.

In 1993, Yang joined the national team and prepared for the Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games. Unfortunately, suffering from the fatigue caused in the trials, she did not perform well and missed that Winter Olympic Games. Brushing off her failure, the tenacious Yang recovered her form two years later and managed to rejoin up with the national team coming in ninth in the individual all-around at the National Winter Games.

After years of preparation, Yang went to her first winter Olympic games in 1998 — the Nagano Winter Olympics. Despite being a rookie Olympian, she did not expect to do badly in all the individual competitions, although she did take silver in the relay. One month later, facing the same competitors, with more experience under her belt, Yang skated her way to three golds in three events, including an all-around individual event.

In the 500-meter final at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002, Yang won the first ever Winter Olympics gold medal for China in 44.187 seconds, and China’s national anthem was played at a venue of the Winter Olympic Games for the very first time. Days later, she took another gold in the 1,000-meter event and a silver medal in the women’s 3,000-meter relay.

The “queen on the ice ” in her stellar career garnered 59 world champion titles.

Beijing’s Bid for Winter Olympics

Yang often posts photos of herself playing with her five-year-old daughter on her WeChat moment, as she often says the child has brought her so much luck, not only giving her endless joy in daily life but also accompanying her throughout the journey of Beijing’s bid for the winter Olympics.

Beijing’s successful bid for the Winter Olympics has been an unforgettable experience for each participant. It is particularly a very special experience for Yang, as she was pregnant during the period she was working on the bid.

Yang still remembers that in March 2015, she participated in the reception of representatives from the Evaluation Commission of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) who came to inspect Beijing’s venues and construction sites.

“I was in the early stages of my pregnancy at that time and often experienced very uncomfortable sickness. I briefed the commission of the condition of the Capital Indoor Stadium and accompanied them to the construction site of the venues for snow sports events. There was no high-speed rail from Yan-qing to Zhangjiakou back then, so I had to go by car. For my early pregnancy sickness, I received a lot of care from my colleagues, which has given me many heartwarming memories of that time,” she said.

In July 2015, standing on the speech podium to bid for the Winter Olympic Games at the 128th Session of the IOC, Yang delivered the perfect statement dressed in a light blue suit, presenting a Chinese image and spirit to the world. She still finds it interesting when she recalls that moment, as she prepared three different suits because of her body change caused by pregnancy before she gave her speech.

Passion for Winter Olympics

Shortly after Beijing won the host city bid, Yang’s schedule became even busier as she worked to help prepare for and organize the games. Over the past six years since Beijing’s bid victory, Yang has been traveling back and forth from the IOC, to the Beijing Organizing Committee, and from her home in Shanghai to national ice and snow sports events, often working from dawn till dusk.

As chairperson of the Athletes’ Commission of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee, Yang made more than 40 proposals to the Committee, ranging from preparing needle and thread packets for the figure skating athletes who may need to mend clothes, to ensuring adequate equipment, including wheelchairs on the field for the injured or athletes who fall ill, and assisting to create the menu for Olympic Village.

In 2019, Yang was elected vice president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Not long after that came the COVID-19 pandemic. Though all meetings and conferences were held virtually, she continued with her tight schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in making adjustments for the work to prepare for the Winter Olympic Games, to which members of the athlete commission cooperated positively. Based on their personal experience, some members have made suggestions from the perspective of athletes. “We discussed with the IOC about measures on pandemic control from the perspective of athletes. For example, at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, what can we do to protect the wellbeing of athletes while securing the bottom line of ensuring pandemic protocols and everyone’s good health? Such concerns as training conditions and whether the games can be played as scheduled are important,” said Yang. In 2020 when COVID-19 was raging, her commission called on athletes to set an example and encourage the public to do more exercise.

Now as it’s only a few months away from the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Yang said athletes should train harder, and those errors that they worry about happening at the event should be dealt with in training, so that they are ready to compete with greater confidence. Ahead of major competitions, a Plan B is also advisable in case of any unexpected incidents, so as to reduce athletes’ stress. “Only when you make detailed preparations, is it more likely that you can stay calm and concentrate fully during the event,” she said.

Yang believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sports industry globally. “Every country is trying to overcome difficulties of making it to the games. On the other hand, China, known for its exceptional pandemic control achievements, is trying its best to provide the best condition for athletes. A superb system is our strength,” said Yang.

In fact, Yang is really envious that the younger generation now has the opportunity to take part in the Winter Olympics in China, and is looking forward to their performance on the field.


WANG JING is a senior reporter of China Sports Daily.

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