"I'm Yang Yang A": legendary Olympian inspires Chinese youth

Source: Xinhua| 2018-05-07 16:57:33|Editor: Li Xia
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By Sportswriter Ji Ye

BEIJING, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Yang Yang went from being an ordinary little girl in northeast China to a short track world champion who broke China's gold drought at the Winter Olympics.

On May 4 she gave an inspiring speech to hundreds of young people at Xinhua News Agency's "New Youth 2018 Summer Speech", calling on the youth to illuminate the future with dreams.

"People fail their dreams, not because they lack talent, but because of an absence of courage to face failure and to insist on commitments," Yang said, recalling her first but disappointing Winter Olympics in Nagano 1998. "The only medal I won at the 1998 Winter Olympics was the women's 3000m relay silver medal. I was extremely disappointed. I trained so hard, but the result was disheartening."

From 1997 to 2002, Yang won six consecutive individual overall champions in the World Championships. What is the secret to her success? Yang gave a long answer.

The first is the sense of crisis. A reporter asked Yang, "Do you think no one can challenge you?" She answered no, and says she felt like she was standing on the edge of the cliff every day and could fall off easily without hard work. When she stepped down from the podium, she had to find something to improve.

The second is how to find deficiency. Yang wants to look at things from her opponent's point of view. She often tried to picture herself as an opponent's coach and then looked back at her match to check her strategy.

The third is to unite and integrate the team. Stand up from where you fall, she said. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the Chinese delegation once again fought for their first gold medal. However in the women's 1500m, an event she had not lost in in five years, Yang only finished fourth and missed the podium.

Yang eventually won the women's 500m event. Her victory at the 2002 Winter Olympics made her China's first-ever Winter Olympics gold medalist.

"I still remember after the match, when I was interviewed by reporters, the only sentence I said was 'I'm Yang Yang A'. I couldn't say anything else, because at the time that was the only sentence in my mind," Yang Yang said.

Born in 1975, Yang is also known as Yang Yang (A), to differentiate from her teammate whose name is also Yang Yang.

She added a second gold in the women's 1000m at the same Games. China's first and second Winter Olympic gold medals were both won by Yang.

After the 2003 World Championships, Yang took time off from competing, but came back in the 2004-2005 season in the lead-up to the 2006 Winter Olympics where she won the bronze medal in the 1000m race and became the flag bearer at the opening ceremony. She retired soon afterwards.

Yang went on to become an IOC member and an ISU council member. Her term as an IOC member has just come to an end.

Now Yang chairs the Athletes' Commission of Beijing 2022.

"Beijing 2022 attaches great importance to the Athletes' Commission and arranges specific tasks for our commission, which is a huge recognition for us. The Games is athlete-centered, and we therefore need to understand the demands of athletes. From sports organization to event operation, athletes' opinions should be taken into consideration," said Yang.

Yang also established the Champion Foundation to provide playground, facilities and PE teachers for children, and to provide the retired athletes with education and to help athletes successfully get through the transitional period after retirement.

She also opened the Feiyang Skating Center to encourage more people in the country to participate in winter sports. "The dream enables us to see the future, motivates us to move forward, and constantly surpass ourselves," Yang said.