Former world figure skating champion Chen Lu's family life seems to revolve around the ice rink as much as her career does. Chen and her Russian husband, Denis Petrov, are on the ice every afternoon at the Luohu rink where they work - she's skating director and he's head coach - practising or giving lessons to advanced skaters. Nikita, their 18-month-old son, can often be found watching from the stands, accompanied by his grandmother. Fans may also find her father, Chen Xiqin, a former captain of the national ice hockey team, giving pointers to her teenage nephew, Kong Dehua, as he prepares to compete in the national figure skating championships at the end of the year. Chen, 31, has come a long way since she started skating under her father's watchful eye at the age of four. By the time she was 14 the Changchun-born athlete had won the national title and was the world champion at 18. She met Petrov at the 1992 Winter Olympics, where he was a silver medallist. Over the years, they got to know each other on the elite tournament circuit and began dating. And when they retired from competition in 1999, the pair was invited to join the US-based Stars on Ice tour group. Although Chen enjoyed the troupe's high standards of presentation, she missed the thrill of competing at the highest levels. 'Stars on Ice gave me the opportunity to continue a career on ice,' says Chen, who won bronzes at the 1994 and 1998 Olympics. 'But it's hard to make the switch from being an athlete to a performer after having been on the national team for more than a decade. [There's] no coach and no assistant; you have to take care of everything yourself in a foreign country.' After spending five years on the road, Chen became homesick and often racked up phone bills of up to US$1,500 each month on long-distance calls to her family on the mainland. So when the offer came in 2004 to be skating director of Shenzhen's first commercial rink, she didn't hesitate. She and Petrov married the next year. Petrov, 39, has been unwavering in backing her decision to return to China, she says. 'I appreciated his bravery and support. He didn't know much about China before he arrived, and I was the only person he knew in Shenzhen.' These days, Chen is busy promoting ice skating through classes, the media and her blog. She has written two books about her skating, Butterfly on Ice and The Illusions of a Butterfly, and frequently travels around the country to officiate as a judge or team captain at events in a sport that has been buoyed by her international success. Watching her nephew being put through his paces, Chen reflects on her role at the rink. 'For me, standing on ice is different from a decade ago,' she says. 'My responsibility now is to popularise the sport; it's like moving on from being an actress to a director.' But few of China's top skaters are able to make similar moves. Although world pair skating champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo were also invited to join Stars on Ice, career opportunities for former national athletes are scarce, Chen says. 'There's no skating performance tours on the mainland, and overseas tour organisers require skaters at world or Olympic champion level.'