Former speed skater, 71, anticipates Winter Games

By Han Junhong in Changchun and Zhou Huiying | | Updated: 2021-04-14 16:33
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Zhao Weichang instructs skaters at the Changchun Skating Center in Changchun, Jilin province. [Photo by Xu Chang/For]

After 41 years, Zhao Weichang still vividly remembers the day when he led China's delegation into the stadium during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, New York, in 1980.

Zhao, a former speed skater from Changchun, Jilin province, now 71, was chosen as the flag bearer because of his excellent performance in domestic and international competitions in the 1970s.

"When we entered the stadium, the audience rang out warm applause and cheers to welcome China back to the Olympic family," he recalled. "I felt so excited and greatly honored at that moment."

"Our delegation won no medals at the 1980 Games, but the first participation bought valuable experience for the development of China's ice and snow sports and laid a foundation for all athletes' dream of winning gold medals in the future. At that time, I also hoped our country would become strong in sports as soon as possible."

Because of injuries and age, Zhao retired after the 1980 Games, but he didn't leave the skating rink. Over the years, he served as the chief coach of the Jilin Provincial Speed Skating Team and the director of the Changchun Sports Science Research Institute.

Even after retirement, he continued to travel to various places to teach skating part-time and to judge competitions.

When the Beijing 2022 Games started its 300-day countdown on Saturday, Zhao gave his blessing and sent his hopes to the young athletes.

"I hope to see more young athletes win honors for our country," he said. "And I'm looking forward to cheering for the Chinese ice and snow athletes at the 2022 Games next year."

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