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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 20:17, August 19, 2006
Veteran skaters bid farewell to ice rink
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After 59 world championship titles and two Winter Olympic gold medals, the glorious sports career of Yang Yang (A) has finally come to a close.

China's first Winter Olympic gold medallist officially announced her retirement on Thursday, just one week before her 30th birthday.

Together with Yang, Li Jiajun, China's short-track speed skating multiple world champion, also revealed his retirement.

"I should say thank you to all the people that supported me in my skating career, especially my team," said Yang at a special ceremony to mark her retirement. "I'm a member of the team and all my achievement was gained with the full support of it."

From 1997 to 2002, Yang dominated short-track speed skating in international competitions by winning the overall championships for six successive years. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, Yang claimed the gold at 500m and 1,000m races to end China's gold medal drought at the Games, after which Yang withdrew from most international competitions to study at Utah State University in the United States.

The short-track queen made a full return to the sport at the end of 2004 and concluded her career with a bronze medal at the 2006 Turin Games, which was her third Olympic Games.

"After retiring, I will be back to school to focus on my study," said Yang, who is a student of China's prestigious Tsinghua University. "In July, I became a member of the Women and Sport Commission of the International Olympic Committee, so I will continue to make contributions to the Olympics."

Like Yang, Li also promised to remain involved in sport in some capacity despite his retirement.

"The retirement is only a temporary leave from the sport," said Li, who has 21 world championship titles and is still the record holder of the men's 1,000m race.

"My sporting career will encourage me a lot in my future life."

After starting training on ice at the age of 9, Li has spent 23 years on the short-track, which is considered to be a long career for a skater. Having competed in four Winter Olympic Games, missing out on an Olympic gold medal may have proved a lasting regret, but Li remains positive.

"The Olympic gold medal was not my only aim for my skating, it wasn't for a long time," said the 32-year-old. "If I become a coach in the future, I hope my fellow skaters could realize that for me."

According to Li, he will go to study in Canada later this year and continue his work as the assistant coach for the national team.

Without the two veterans, the young Chinese short-track speed skating team is currently in training with new coach Li Yan, the former Chinese world champion and coach of the US national team.

As for the young team, Yang and Li both expressed their confidence in it. "Li Yan was my idol while I was young and I believe under her training, our national team will be better and better," said Yang.

Source: China Daily

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