By Sportswriters Yan Lei and Su Bin
PYEONGCHANG, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- "A big turning point, and an absolutely extraordinary day," said China's speed skater Zhang Hong after being elected the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission here on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Zhang was elected here following a vote at the 132nd IOC Session after being nominated by IOC President Thomas Bach.
"I would like to thank President Bach for trusting me and supporting the Chinese athletes," said Zhang, adding that she would continue the work her predecessor short track skater Yang Yang has been doing and try her best to make contribution to the development of Chinese sports.
Four years ago, Zhang claimed China's first ever Olympic speed skating title by winning the women's 1000m at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
According to Zhang, that was both the top of her athletic career and a turning point of her life.
"In the past four years, I have experienced a lot, not only victories, but also setbacks and injuries. Especially in the recent one and a half years, my knees hurt every day," said Zhang.
Due to her knee injuries, Zhang finished 11th and 15th in women's 1000m and 500m in PyeongChang, but she believes that being able to compete here was already a victory.
"How many four-years can an athlete have? I feel honored to be able to participate in my second Olympics," she said.
"It's not just about the medal, but more about the Olympic spirit," she added.
For Zhang, Sunday is "actually a bigger turning point" of her life compared to four years ago, now that she represents not only herself, but also more athletes.
"I want to fit in this big family (IOC Athletes' Commission) as soon as possible and find out the things that I should do and the choices that I should make," she said.
Having spent 22 years on the ice, Zhang said that skating is not only her career, but an inseparable part of her life. "If I get up one day and don't skate, I don't know what to do with my day. It would feel like missing something," she said.
As for Beijing 2022, Zhang said that she has been giving a lot of thoughts to it. "I really want to compete as an athlete at Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, but if my knees wouldn't allow it, I want to keep involved in the ice sport which I has loved so dearly," she said.
As for how to keep involved in and do more for the ice sport she loves, Zhang already has some plans, including joining a master's program in Tsinghua University on sports event management in September this year.
She also wants to help find more talents for Chinese speed skating, for example, to see whether there is a chance to invite short track skaters, roller skaters and athletes in some other fields to join speed skating.
Zhang lives a highly disciplined life. In her spare time, she loves reading and learning, and recently, improving English has become a goal.
"If we want to achieve anything, whether it's being a good athlete, or doing a good job, or learning English, they all require us to make our best efforts," she said.