Figure skaters glide into a new season

The season of double toe loops and camel spins kicks off on Saturday with China's Figure Skating Masters, a two-day figure skating event held at the Beijing Century Star Skating Centre.

"The Masters marks the starting of the new season as well as the preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games," said Yao Bin, head coach of China's national team.

"After the long vocation following the Turin Winter Olympic Games, I hope the competition will help skaters return to focus on their training soon."

During the last season, the Chinese figure skating pairs surprised the world with remarkable placement in almost every the international competitions. Zhang Hao

At the Turin Games in February, Zhang Dan and her partner Zhang Hao claimed the silver medal right after she severely injured her knees. Veteran pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo clinched the bronze medal, despite Zhao breaking his ankle, while Pang Qing and Tong Jian finished in fourth.

At the following World Championships, Pang and Tong stepped onto the highest podium with the Zhang team pocketing the silver again.

"After the conclusion of last season, our team has attended many activities and the skaters had a longer vocation than before," said Yao. "We have to be back on ice."

According to Yao, after the Masters, the skaters will start to choreograph new routines and some members of the national teams will be changed.

"We have just received a new technical judging document from the International Skating Union and we found the judging standard has become more specific," Yao said. "We have started to study the new standard and the new routines will be choreographed according to the updated standards."

At the same time, Yao also stated that the national team is looking for new blood.

"Building up the reserve team is one of the main concerns of us at present," Yao said. "We hope to try to find suitable talents soon."

As the season opening competition, the Masters attracts almost all the top figure skaters in the country, include the Zhang pair, Pang and Tong, and Li Chengjiang, who finished fourth in the men's division in the 2003 World Championships. Shen and Zhao will miss the competition since they are working with their choreographer in Canada.

The competition will take place at the new training base for the national team - the Beijing Century Star Skating Centre.

Set up by the Century Star Skating Club, the first skating club in China, the Beijing Century Star Skating Centre has served as the training base since its former base, the Beijing Capital Gymnasium, has been under renovation for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Source: China Daily

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