Figure skating: Olympic gold-winning coach Zhang Wei returns as Singapore's technical director

Zhang Wei began coaching in Singapore in 2001 and has made the Republic his home. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - After coaching China to a gold medal in figure skating at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Zhang Wei is now hoping to contribute towards developing the local winter sports scene as he returns to his role as the Singapore Ice Skating Association's (Sisa) technical director.

He had held the role from April 2020 to April last year, but left to become a pairs team coach for the Chinese figure skating team alongside Zhao Hongbo, a former Olympic champion, and Guan Jinlin ahead of February's Winter Olympics.

The trio guided Sui Wenjing and Han Cong to a gold in pairs figure skating in Beijing, which saw them become just the second Chinese pair to do so in the sport after Zhao and his partner Shen Xue were crowned champions at the 2010 edition.

With his experience from the coaching stint as well as his own as a former figure skater who won gold at the 1999 Asian Winter Games for China, Zhang is now eager to assist Sisa in growing winter sports in Singapore.

He began coaching in Singapore in 2001 and has made the Republic his home, where he resides with his wife and two sons.

Educating coaches was a key focus during his previous stint as Sisa technical director and that will remain a priority for him this time. He had previously helped to write safety guidelines for Sisa and conducted coaching seminarstoo.

Zhang, who is a Singapore citizen, said: "I think I can help figure skating and ice skating with my knowledge and experience. I'm willing to share my experience with the local coaches.

"I used to train full-time when I was very young until my retirement and the local cultures are different and how the sport is seen is also different, so I think I'm able to contribute to Sisa to develop this sport in Singapore."

The 44-year-old stressed that proper coaching can play an important role in getting people into the sport as well as training athletes to compete at a higher level.

He said: "The way you teach a skater is very important, it's how you let them get into the rink, that's the first step. Then the second step is teaching them correctly so they won't fall too hard or get injured and let them really enjoy skating.

"Teaching the correct technique is important. Figure skating is a very complicated sport and they must have a good foundation to improve, otherwise it's hard to get even higher."

Zhang also hopes to see a Singapore figure skater at the 2030 Winter Olympics, but acknowledged that there are challenges to overcome.

The Republic has only had one representative at the quadrennial competition - short track speed skater Cheyenne Goh, who competed at Pyeongchang 2018.

Ice time for the athletes is also limited as the JCube ice rink where they train is shared with the general public, but that is something that Zhang hopes will improve.

He noted that that could be one of the reasons why the gap between local figure skaters and those overseas widens with age even though they are on a similar level at novice level competitions.

He said: "If you want to improve, you need better hours of training."

Zhang also feels the need to educate parents to help them better understand the sport and what is required if an athlete wants to pursue it at a high level. He had held seminars for parents previously.

He said: "If you want to join any sport and go to a higher level, you need to spend much more time to get better results. I tell them how the sport is supposed to be and where you should work towards that would lead you to become a high-performance skater."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.