Chinese skater world champ
CHINA has added an ice skater to its impressive list of world champions following 18-year-old Chen Lu's historic performance at the World Figure Skating Championships in Birmingham, England.
Chen, originally from Changchun, in Jilin province, but now a resident of Beijing, skated to music from the film The Last Emperor.
'Now I am happy, the first time for my country,' said Chen, who broke the domination of American and European skaters in the event.
Chen, who withdrew from last year's event with a leg injury, showed the potential that has been evident since she placed third in the 1992 championships in California as a 15-year-old.
She was third again a year later and third once more at the Lillehammer Olympics last year.
Until now, she has been performing for honour, pride and more sporting glory for the nation which dominates women's running, swimming, badminton and table tennis.
Next year, however, she can earn money as well, following a decision at the weekend by the International Skating Union that prize money will be paid in events it sanctions from next season.
Cash on offer for a possible six-event Grand Prix circuit could be as high as US$2.5 million (HK$19.2 million).
The union was spurred to act by the proliferation of new events in North America in the wake of last year's Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga.
But they are also keenly aware of the need to keep leading skaters in their championship events.
'We want to allow them to replace medals with money,' said new president of the union Ottavio Cinquanta.
The union had also been asked by some member associations, mainly in North America, to provide the means for ineligible (professional) skaters to compete against eligible skaters.
To that end, they intend to expand an international series of open events from the current two to a maximum of eight.