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Passing on skills keeps skater busy

Updated: 2016-09-15 08:15
By Lei Lei (China Daily)

Figure skater Tong Jian was busy after his retirement in March 2015.

Within 18 months, he registered a company, got an investment for financing and opened his own figure skating center.

Now, besides being a former world champion and Olympic silver medalist, Tong captured one more title - founder of iskating company.

Passing on skills keeps skater busy

Tong Jian (front) performs with children at Pang Qing & Tong Jian Figure Skating Center in Beijing. Iskating for China Daily

"I used to think that I would feel a loss for a while after my retirement, but it was totally different since I'm fulfilled every day at the startup," Tong said.

Tong and his partner Pang Qing are considered China's second-best figure skating pair all-time behind three-time world champions and Vancouver Winter Olympic gold medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.

After announcing his retirement from competition in March 2015, Tong gave up his coaching position on the national team and decided to start his own business, which is also closely related to his beloved sport - figure skating. But this time, it's not for competing for Olympic glory, but promoting the sport to more youths.

In June 2015, Tong registered iskating company. In March, iskating APP, a mobile phone application developed by the company, went online, providing information for figure skating fans to know more about the sport, find the nearest ice rink and book training classes.

"As a winter sport athlete, the luckiest thing is that Beijing won the hosting rights for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Facing such a great opportunity to promote figure skating, we hope to draw on help from the internet to seek a way to better develop the sport," the 37-year-old Tong said during a Apple-style presentation for the launch of the app on March 24.

Soon after the launch, his company gained its first investment from Huace Film&TV for three million yuan ($450,000).

The Pang Qing & Tong Jian Figure Skating Center, a training club, opened on June 18.

Tong has invited several of China's top retired skaters to join his coaching team, including former junior Grand Prix final men's singles champion Gao Song, former national men's singles junior champion Liu Jiaxing and former national team pairs coach Ding Yang.

"Starting up my own business is the continuation of my dream," Tong told China Daily. "I was seeking the peak of my competitive career while I was an athlete, but now I want to widen the scope of the sport by spreading it to more people."

Teaming up in 1993, Tong and partner Pang have devoted everything to the sport. Although their careers were full of ups and downs and they struggled with injuries, they never gave up.

From 1993 to 1998, they had to train by themselves in their hometown of Harbin because coach Yao Bin was working with Shen and Zhao in Beijing.

They faced the choice of whether or not to continue skating, but decided to keep going and later moved to Beijing to train with the national team.

Making their World Championships debut in 2000, Pang and Tong made steady progress and clinched the bronze medal in the competition in 2004. At the 2006 Turin Winter Games, they narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth.

They reached the first peak of their career by winning the world champion title a month later.

Hampered by injuries, the pair missed the podium at the 2008 and 2009 worlds but came back with new routines late in 2009 and regained their form to claim silver at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where Shen and Zhao took the gold in a major breakthrough for China's figure skating.

The duo regained a career high by winning the 2010 world championships.

After the pairs competition in Vancouver, Pang and Tong announced they were in love. Six years later, on the opening day of their skating center, they registered for marriage.

Retired with Tong, Pang is also staying with the sport. She is now a member of the national coaching team and also works as a TV commentator for the figure skating competitions.

Tong is satisfied with how things are going so far.

"The skating center is going better than expected as we have already got nearly 100 members within three months," Tong said.

Tong's efforts have gained applause from their hero coach.

Yao, head coach of the national team, said Tong's skating center "better serves China's skating".

"Only by doing this could he pass the advantages of China's figure skating to future generations and achieve a brighter future for the sport," Yao said.

For the next step in development, Tong already had his plan.

"Now what we do is sport plus education. For the next stage, we want a program of sport plus culture," Tong said.

He will try small-scale figure skating performances at the end of November, aiming at further spreading figure skating culture.

"I've never felt regret about what I'm doing now. I hope all the athletes could find themselves doing what they like after retirement," Tong said.


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