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China's figure skating fraternity is mourning the loss of their dedicated trailblazer.
Yang Jiasheng, China's first International Skating Union (ISU) approved international judge for figure skating and the first Chinese ISU referee, died from cancer at the age of 73 on March 12 in Beijing.
Born on June 21, 1939, Yang devoted his life to China's figure skating.
He used to be a men's singles skater in his hometown of Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, and became China's national junior champion in 1956. In 1959 Yang was crowned senior level national champion.
While competing at national level, Yang studied at Harbin Medical University and became a doctor in Shangzhi County People's Hospital in Harbin's Shangzhi county after graduation in 1966.
But his love for figure skating drew him back to the ice rink.
In 1972, he became a figure skating judge, and that was also the year he served as a doctor at the Harbin Medical University Cancer Hospital.
Yang received approval as an international judge in 1980. He passed the ISU judging examination in 1984 and was certified as the judge for the World Championships and other international events the following year.
In 1985, China set up its national figure skating team and Yang was appointed as the team leader and the headmaster of China's Figure Skating School. After that, Yang quit his career as a doctor.
From 1993, Yang became head of the research department of China's Winter Sports Administrative Center. He translated ISU rules, a judges' manual and a number of documents for the Chinese Skating Union. He also participated in the framing of China's figure skating training outline and contributed to the classification of Chinese figure skaters.
Yang was approved by the ISU to be the referee of international events in 1996. At the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, Yang was the referee for the women's singles judging panel, the first Chinese to reach such a level.
Yao Bin, head coach of China's figure skating national team, remembers Yang fondly.
"It was Yang who transferred me to Beijing to be the coach for the national team. In terms of coaching, I'm his student," says Yao, who boasts of students such as pair skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo - China's first Olympic champions in the sport.
"During his period as judge, Yang summarized the breakthrough points for China's figure skaters in terms of twists, throws and spins. After retirement (1999), he still cared about the Chinese team and the development of China's figure skating. We wouldn't have reached such a level without Yang," Yao says.
With his efforts, Chinese figure skaters managed to achieve breakthroughs in a sport that used to be dominated by Westerners.
In 1994, Chen Lu won the women's singles bronze medal at the Nagano Winter Olympics, which was the first medal for China in the sport. In the following year, Chen won the gold medal at the Birmingham World Championships, becoming China's first figure skating world champion.
China's pair skaters also rose to prominence in the recent decade. They reached the peak by finishing one-two at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, snapping a 12-Game winning streak from Russia who had dominated the Olympic figure skating pair events for 46 years.
Yang had also been invited to be a commentator of figure skating competitions on CCTV and founded Beijing Century Star Skating Club with Fan Jun. For his contribution, the Chinese Skating Associated presented him the Special Contribution Award last September.
Fan, president of the club, wrote this on his micro blog after Yang's passing: "You are a great man in figure skating circles and you are everyone's teacher in this field. You will always be an example to us."
According to Yang's request, no funeral service will be held. His former colleagues and fellow skaters are planning a memorial but the date has not been decided yet.
(China Daily 03/20/2013 page20)