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Tong is still on the cutting edge

By Xu Zheng | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-18 07:14

Tong is still on the cutting edge

Husband-and-wife pair Tong Jian and Pang Qing thrilled Chinese fans at the 2015 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai. Now retired from competition, 37-year-old Tong is enjoying a successful business career, with his latest venture a new rink in Beijing. AFP File

China's icon of the ice now focusing his energy on building a business empire, writes Xinhua's Xu Zheng.

Chinese figure skating icon Tong Jian has blossomed into a successful businessman with the same ease and grace he demonstrated when gliding across the ice in his heyday.

And the man who married Pang Qing, with whom he won Olympic pairs silver (2010) and two world titles, is still an old romantic.

In keeping with the sport's tradition of naming the female skater first, the 37-year-old recently opened Pang Qing/Tong Jian Arena near the 5th Ring Road in eastern Beijing.

With a handpicked staff of 27, the charismatic Tong has high hopes for his new venture.

"As you can imagine, a team with such passion and dedication represents not only efficiency but, most importantly, getting results," said Tong, adding that family remains high on his list of priorities.

"Spending quality time with my family is very important to me. It is also during this time that I can relax and unwind."

Since skating into the competitive sunset in 2015, Tong has wasted no time building his business empire.

He first marketed a mobile application that provides users with information about figure skating and allows them to book lessons, catch up on the latest news and get professional instructions on form and technique. So far, it has raked in around 10 million yuan ($1.45 million), according to Tong.

"I'd actually been wanting to do this since 2010," he said. "We've had an astonishing career, and now I want this new project to introduce the greatness of skating to more and more people."

Tong's dizzying array of activities doesn't stop there. He also teaches private lessons, and, after tucking his son into bed, spends the remaining hours of the day on another project: a touring ice show that portrays different elements of Chinese culture.

"China has not yet seen a meaningful performance that showcases its culture in the form of figure skating," said Tong.

"From the storyline to music to the production, I wish to create something that incorporates Chinese elements and showcases them on a global stage."

Tong is also finishing an EMBA at Peking University. He's currently writing his thesis, motivated by his thirst for knowledge.

"I went to school wanting answers, not as a way to fill unused hours out of the day," he said.

"I strategized my business plan long before retirement, so going to school was a given.

"There are so many things to be learned other than just theory. I wanted to broaden my perspective and observe more of what is out there to attain my goals."

To help professional athletes prepare for life after sports, Tong's company has also joined the Chinese State General Administration of Sports in a policy-support program to ensure employment opportunities.

"I am very fortunate to have what I have today; I am working hard so I can help more professional athletes to live to their fullest potential outside of the competitive world," he said.

Although retirement can be a black hole for some athletes, Tong's jam-packed schedule proves that, with the right planning and motivation, it can be the start of an exciting new chapter.

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