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Feature: Yang Yang, a flagbearer for gender equality in sports

2020-12-05 15:37:00 Xinhuanet

BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Yang Yang became China's first Winter Olympic champion at Salt Lake City in 2002, when she took two gold medals and a silver in short track speed skating. After that, she continued to push for gender equality in sports.

Four years later, at the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Yang became the first female athlete to carry the National flag at Olympics Opening Ceremony in Chinese Olympic history.

After retirement, Yang joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Woman in Sports Commission right after and was elected as an IOC member in 2010. Feeling at a loss as to what to do in the organizations at first, she turned to He Zhenliang, former International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and vice president, for advice, and that was when she was first inspired.

"He told me a story from Doha Asian Games, which was the first time for some Middle East countries to send female athletes, and it was a really big breakthrough for the society there. As an athlete, I was only focused on the field of play and it was the first time that I looked at sports from a different angle. Since then, I have been devoting a lot of my time to help improve women's roles and opportunities in sports," Yang said.

Serving two four-year terms as an IOC member, Yang was elected World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) vice president in 2019. As an official, she helped and witnessed the increasing participation of female athletes in the Olympic Summer and Winter Games, as well as the Youth Olympic Games.

According to IOC statistics, female participation will reach a record-high 48.8 percent in Tokyo 2020, more than double that of Los Angeles in 1984. Beijing 2022 will also see an increase in women's and mixed events to reach a record 45.44 percent female representation at a Winter Games, up by nearly five percent compared with PyeongChang 2018, which was already nearly two times that of Sarajevo 1984.

"As a result of more female athletes competing in the sports, many very talented female athletes have become heroes and stars which inspire more women and girls come to play sports," she said.

With 34 world titles to her name, Yang founded Champion Foundation in 2009 to promote youth sports activities in schools and communities and started a Skating Academy in Shanghai.

"So many parents have told me how sports helped the girls be strong and confident in schools, how sport teaches kids about responsibility and team spirit, positive thinking, etc. They enjoy skating, they enjoy sports, and that makes my work so much more meaningful," said the mother of two kids, who believes sports could play an important role in children's growth.

"I really appreciate the knowledge I have gained from sports; I am very lucky that I can support my kids in sports, especially there are not many activities in school. But at the same time, I am also thinking about how I can support more kids and their moms who might also need the knowledge to support their kids," said Yang, eager to make more changes. Enditem

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