|Yang Yang, member of CPPCC National Committee and former Winter Olympics gold medalist|
From a humble ice rink to the Great Hall of the People, star political adviser Yang Yang has fully explored many career paths and shows no sign of slowing down.
If winning medals at the Olympics defines the pinnacle of an athlete's career, then former short-track speedskater Yang could have rested on her laurels long ago as the first Chinese to win a Winter Olympics gold medal. She won not just one but two at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States.
However, from what seemed like a perfect ending to her sports career, Yang has charted an even brighter career path since her retirement in 2006. She has embraced multiple high-profile roles, such as being elected an International Olympic Committee member in 2010 and serving as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
One of the most popular members on the CPPCC's sports panel, Yang has made her voice heard regarding a wide range of issues from mass sports participation to preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics and development of the sports industry.
"It's a blessing to be able to still try new things in my 40s and I am honored to be trusted by many to offer suggestions representing the sports group," the 43-year-old mother of two said at the ongoing two sessions in Beijing.
"Among all the pressing issues, I am particularly concerned about the lack of sports participation by the youth in our country."
She gave birth to a son in 2012 and a daughter in 2015.
After studying campus sports activities in Shanghai over the past year, Yang, who now operates a commercial skating club in the eastern metropolis, suggested in her proposal this year that the top sports and educational authorities should jointly build a sports league system beginning in primary school and going all the way up to the collegiate level.
Only by putting such a connected system in place could students continuously develop their sports talent throughout their education.
"Starting from junior high school, sports participation of students dramatically drops due to the lack of organized competitions under increasing academic pressure," Yang said.
"The importance of sports as an integral part of an all-around education should be further promoted in our country."
Playing sports has been a life changer for Yang, so she has a strong argument.
Born in Heilongjiang province, Yang started skating training at the age of 10 at a local sports school in her hometown, Qitaihe, where she had to practice on a frozen river on frigid winter mornings.
Though skinny and short at the beginning, Yang's work ethic and smooth technique helped her stand out and she won her first national title, in the 3,000 meters, in 1991. She soon made her presence felt by winning three golds at her world championship debut in Japan in 1997, before skating into the history books as China's Winter Olympics gold icebreaker in 2002.
After hanging up her skates in 2006, Yang was nominated by former IOC chief Jacques Rogge to join the IOC's Women in Sport Commission, starting her post-athletic career as a rising international sports official.
In 2010, Yang was elected an IOC member for an eight-year term, becoming the first Chinese athlete to hold such a high post.
Yang's impressive resume also includes being the first female council member of the International Skating Union and chairwoman of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics organizing committee's athletes' commission.
As if looking after two children while switching between organizational roles were not enough, Yang has also been running the Feiyang Skating Center in Shanghai since 2013. The double-rink center has partnered with over 30 local schools to increase the popularity of skating through regular courses and competitions.
Now a role model due to her success on and off the ice, Yang is calling for more attention and investment from the government to provide all-around education and occupational training to athletes - not just stars - to make the transition from sports to regular employment smoother.
(Source: China Daily)