Custom skate builder making a name for himself
Wang Yang started figure skating at age 7, then switched to short-track speed skating at 11.
He retired from the oval at age 24 without fulfilling his dream of competing in the Olympics, but is now pursuing that dream in a different way - by forging handmade skates.
It takes three to four working days for Wang to make a pair of professional-quality skates, starting by creating boot molds and stitching in the padding, then plating the upper skins and attaching the blades.
"I know how significant a good pair of skates is for the athletes because I was one myself," said Wang.
"Back then, almost all the skates I wore were imported and not designed to fit the foot shapes of Chinese people, so they were not comfortable to wear. For a long time, I thought about when we could have our own exclusive ice skates.
"At the beginning, I just modified the boots myself by glueing gauze on the stress points inside. Then I started to actually make the boots myself."
The comfortable fit gave him a sense of confidence, so he bought a sewing machine and learned how to use it.
Responding to feedback from athletes, he leaned to customize his boot designs, earning the nickname 'Shoemaker'.
In order to find suitable materials, Wang combed leather markets in Lanzhou, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and other cities, establishing strict standards for every component - from thread, to eyelets and even the laces.
In 2011, Wang acquired a bankrupted Australian skate company. "Their technology was backward, but it gave me a chance to learn about the industry," he said.
To make stronger blades, he spent a lot of time learning about steel. He visited numerous fabrication plants before finally making breakthroughs in technology previously exclusive to foreign companies.
At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Zhang Hong was wearing a pair of skates made by Wang when she won China's first-ever speed skating Olympic gold in the women's 1,000 meters.
The Canadian and South Korean short-track youth teams and Chinese world champions Fan Kexin and Wu Dajing have all worn skates carrying Wang Yang's brand.
"Speed skating competitions are becoming more intense. If an athlete can improve by 0.1 second wearing my skates, they might be able to win a medal," he said.
"I once dreamed of standing on top of the podium; now I hope that athletes who wear my skates can make their and my Winter Olympic dream come true."
With Beijing 2022 approaching, the enthusiasm for ice and snow sports is increasing in China - and Wang sees it as a golden opportunity. In 2017, he branched into making skates for amateurs.
"My amateur skates sold about 5,000 pairs in 2017 and about 10,000 pairs last year," said Wang, whose Changchun factory in Jilin province is in full production.
"I hope more athletes will wear homemade skates to perform their best at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics."