POSTED: Wednesday July 1st 2015

Athletes of Beijing 2022: Zhang Hong "immensely proud" to help create athlete-centred Games

The first in a series profiling Chinese athletes in support of Beijing 2022

Zhang Hong interviewed during the Candidate City Briefing for IOC members in Lausanne
Zhang Hong interviewed during the Candidate City Briefing for IOC members in Lausanne

Zhang Hong celebrates her gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games ┬ęBeijing 2022
Zhang Hong celebrates her gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games ┬ęBeijing 2022

Beijing, July 1 - To deliver Beijing 2022’s pledge to host an athlete-centered Games, China’s top Winter Olympic athletes have played a key role in designing a Olympic and Paralympic Winter bid that prioritizes the athlete experience. Olympic speed skating champion Zhang Hong is one of the most enthusiastic faces amongst a vast pool of Winter Olympic athletes, both young and experienced, who have been assisting the bid as athlete consultants.

As both an Olympic champion and the captain of China’s national speed skating team, the 27-year-old Zhang said she was “immensely proud” to be serving as one of the six Beijing 2022 Bid Ambassadors. As an athlete-centered bid, Beijing 2022 has been actively engaging athletes like Zhang since the very beginning to ensure they are involved in the Games plans development, with particular emphasis on aspects such as laying out the “end-to-end” athlete journey, including pre-Games, Games-time and post-Games. If Beijing 2022 win the honour of hosting the Games, the team plans to quickly establish an Athletes’ Commission involving athletes from every sport on the Winter Olympics program, which will help ensure that all athletes’ needs are fully met.

Since winning the gold medal for China at Sochi 2014 for the women’s 1,000 meter long-track speed skating - her country’s first-ever gold medal in the event - Zhang Hong has confessed the past year has been a “wild ride” full of many personal firsts and changes:

“When I first heard that Beijing was bidding for the Winter Olympics,” Zhang said, “I pledged then and there to use my status as a Chinese winter sports athlete to share my story with local Chinese so they too could fall in love with ice sports just as I once did.”

Throughout last winter, Zhang could be found at Beijing’s local Shi Cha Hai Lake with local speed skating clubs on Saturday mornings running laps around the frozen-over lake and discussing the current status of the bid. Footage of one of their morning skating sessions can be found here.

Zhang Hong was born in 1988 in China’s northeast Heilongjiang province, which shares borders with both Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Heilongjiang is renowned throughout China and East Asia for its winter sports culture; many of China’s Winter Olympic athletes - including fellow Beijing 2022 Bid Ambassadors Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo - come from Heilongjiang, and Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang hosts an immensely popular Ice Festival each January that draws visitors from all over the world. 

Given Zhang is actively training for upcoming major events including the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, she has the unique challenge of balancing her work for Beijing 2022 and maintaining her conditioning for competition. While traveling to Lausanne in early June to assist the Beijing 2022 delegation as they presented the bid to the IOC, Zhang had to focus each day on not only meeting her duty of assisting the delegation, but also maintaining the “extremely strict regiment” of conditioning that China’s national team adheres to each summer.

Zhang spoke of her busy daily schedule out in Switzerland: 
“In Lausanne, I had to make sure to get up extra early - or find time in the evening - to dedicate a few hours in the gym each day. I knew that if I skipped out on a week of training, returning to China and getting back in the swing of things would be twice as difficult. I have always found that training by myself is never as good as training with my best friends.”
The visit to present to the IOC was Zhang’s first time in Lausanne, she joked that attending Beijing 2022’s presentation and experiencing the world’s “Olympic Capital” was also a form of training for future Olympic Games.

Zhang and her fellow teammates and Beijing 2022 Bid Ambassadors eagerly await the Election of the Host City of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games on July 31st, which will be held at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Keywords · Beijing 2022 · Olympics · winter Games · Zhang Hong

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