Olympian artist
Ye Qiaobo (CHN)

© Ye Qiaobo

Ye Qiaobo, is the first Chinese speed skater to become World Champion – she was the women’s all-round world champion in 1992 and 1993. The silver medal she won at Albertville 1992 was China's first ever medal at the Olympic Winter Games. Setting landmarks for winter sports in China, Ye has won 133 medals in her 21-year career.

Ye’s sporting journey began around the Small Heaven lake of Paektu Mountain, in China. A triple Olympic medallist, she is considered one of the greatest winter sports athletes in China. In 1993, in order to compete at the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994, she underwent multiple surgeries on a crushed knee. Still suffering from the injury, she went back on the rink, and won a third Olympic medal in the 1000m. After the Games, she went back to the operating table to have more chips of crushed bones removed.

© MARTIN, Bob

Her story influenced and moved a generation of people, and “The Spirit of Qiaobo” is a famous phrase still today. After her retirement, Ye Qiaobo earned an MBA from Tsinghua University and followed that up with a doctorate. Now, she turns to public welfare and devotes herself to both the educational and socio-cultural significance of sport, to continue her story with sport.

© Ye Qiaobo

Artworks

Plum blossom
Plum blossom
Plum blossom
The plum blossom symbolises holiness, honesty and fortitude. Unlike most plants that bloom in the spring and summer, plum trees usually bloom in the winter despite the extreme cold. This depicts a strong and indomitable spirit. The plum blossom has five petals, which represent five blessings in China: peace, auspiciousness , happiness, contentment and longevity. I painted the plum blossom in order to send best wishes to athletes from all over the world. The Chinese characters in the painting mean: “The flower is even more vivid and elegant in the snowy windy coldness. One should strive and struggle while one can.”
2021 - Ye Qiaobo
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Magnolia
Magnolia
Magnolia
Magnolia symbolises purity, friendship, elegance, openness and sincerity. When magnolia is in full bloom, its petals are very big, like arms opening to embrace friends, to embrace the whole world. I painted magnolias in monochrome, and the ink is very low-carbon, like our wish for Beijing 2022 to be low-carbon, environmentally friendly Olympic Games. The Chinese characters in the painting mean: “The snowflake painted by ink wash is the true national beauty. The ice and snow are in the stars, welcoming guests from afar.”
2021 - Ye Qiaobo
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Bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo
Since ancient times, there has been a Chinese archaism saying that one would rather eat without meat than live without bamboo, which means that bamboo is a symbol of lyrical elegance and grace. Bamboo is always the first touch of painting for Chinese artists. It symbolises integrity, unadorned elegance, safe, lofty and unyielding character, confidence and vitality. Bamboo means progress: each step is like each section of bamboo, inspiring everyone to constantly move forward. I hope my bamboos can make a wish to all the athletes to keep fighting for their good results. The Chinese characters in the painting mean: “Stay virtuous even when you are little known; stay humble when you are well known.”
2021 - Ye Qiaobo
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Q&A with the artist

  • Q. To you personally, what does being an Olympian mean – how does it define your approach to life and how you view yourself and the world?
    • A. My first encounter with speed skating altered the course of my life. All the years when I was an athlete, my beloved friend, speed skating, enriched my life and taught me to be generous and open-minded to the world, to share and express my gratitude to everyone who supported me during difficult times. Many years after my retirement, the medals and trophies I won became dull, sometimes forgotten in the corner. However, the accolades that I earned through my hard work and dedication always inspire young people who are feeling low, who are lost in hesitation and hard situations, when they are about to give up – this is an unexpected bonus outside the arena, and it is even more significant and valuable than the medal itself.

  • Q. What do the Olympic values mean to you?
    • A. Except for the Olympics, there are no other places or international events in the world that bring together peace-loving people who are from various countries with different religions, faiths and cultures. During the Olympics, the world is enveloped in a beautiful spirit of common humanity when global cultures communicate and integrate without segregation or hierarchy. People flee from the quagmire of war, to abandon bias, prejudice and hypocrisy, so that the Olympics become a big family full of love, warmth and happiness.

  • Q. How do you explain to people that the Olympic Games are more than the sporting competition?
    • A. For me, the Olympic Games are not only a sport competition, they also have a unique educational function. It is a passionate and challenging moment, where people are brave and confident, trying their best and never giving up. The expressions of Olympism can be passed on to people from all walks of life. Most essentially, the introduction of such positive values is truly important for the development of society.

  • Q. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
    • A. If I could drift back to the past, I would wish that I could get training in a more scientific way and have more time for reading books, studying, entertaining and doing things that I really love to do, instead of always training in the freezing temperatures of minus 40 degrees, and exercising for more than eight hours per day! Although it has been many years, I think I would still choose speed skating, because it really made my life more colourful and brought me unforgettable memories for my future.

  • Q. Are there parallels in your approach to your art and your approach to your sport? Or do you find that the two dimensions bring/brought out totally different facets of your personality?
    • A. Sports require explosive force, power, speed, animated movement and the balance between tension and relaxation; the creation of art needs dynamic spirituality as well as the innate ability of comprehension. Both require perseverance, persistence and endurance. When I was on the ice, I was very vigorous, determined and disciplined; I was eager to win. Yet my artistic creation guides me to another dimension to understand the world, time and space. When I paint, I just let my hand move romantically and spontaneously. The world in my eyes is very delicate and graceful, I also become immersed in the perceptive atmosphere of Zen.

  • Q. Please feel free to add any other statement you would like to make, about yourself or your passions.
    • A. The Olympics are full of passion, while self-challenge is a lifelong enterprise that entails constantly climbing endless mountains, facing new difficulties, and maximising our own potential. There is nothing impossible in the world. I was living my life in a very fast-paced way before. However, now, I allow myself to temporarily leave the time-poor society, to settle down with tranquillity, and to enjoy the true beauty around me. I am now paying attention to public welfare. Through my dedication, I hope I can bring home-like warmth to disabled children, introduce sport to young students to inspire them to enjoy physical exercise and self-challenge. While I am slowing down myself, I also frequently go to nursing homes to express positive mercy. This is where I find my fresh value, I sincerely enjoy my new approach to life, and the beautiful scenery outside the window.

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