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Photo by Robert Schoen


Personal Best: Christy Ren, A05

One evening in the fall semester of her freshman year, Christy Ren, A05, ventured down from her third-floor dorm room to meet fellow freshmen.

In the midst of a conversation, Ren was surprised to hear a young woman exclaim: “Did you know there is a girl on the third floor who’s going to the Olympics?”

As a matter of fact, she did. Ren was that girl, a member of Hong Kong’s first Olympic speed skating team.
“Apparently, my roommate was so excited about it, she had told everyone, ‘Did you know my roommate is an Olympic skater?’ ” recalled Ren with a laugh. “By the time I went downstairs, I think everyone knew.”

Like many young girls her age, Ren started figure skating in her native Hong Kong at the age of eight. A petite, athletic girl, she was born to excel at such a sport, though when the chance came to compete at speed skating six years later, she bucked tradition and went for it, never realizing that one day it would add her name to the history books.

“My parents let me do what I enjoy, and they encouraged me to try it out,” said Ren, a member of Hong Kong’s Skating Union. “They didn’t have speed skating before in Hong Kong, and they wanted to introduce the sport. I tried it and really liked it. I thought it was exciting—you get a lot of satisfaction. It’s a very challenging and powerful sport where you skate at a speed of up to 30 miles per hour.”

History happened last February when Ren participated as one of two members of Hong Kong’s first speed skating team at the Winter Olympic Games, held in Salt Lake City, Utah. And how did it feel, one might ask the Tufts sophomore?

“It was awesome,” said the 19-year-old Ren. “I had such a great experience. The opening ceremony was amazing, and during the non-competition everyone was very friendly. That was eye-opening. Even during the competition, China’s team members were very supportive of each other.”

The Hong Kong native was also able to enjoy some of the other perks of the Olympic experience, including a two-week stay in the Olympic Village, regular sports massage, mingling at events with the other athletes and a chance to watch all the competitions as they happened. “The experience,” she said, “was amazing.”

Ren, who hasn’t declared a major, would be the first to admit that it wasn’t easy juggling an Olympic-training schedule with her first-semester freshman-year commitments. Getting to the ice rink in Walpole from the Medford campus alone was a competition unto itself, since there is no way to get there by public transportation. In order to make her thrice-weekly rink trainings, she would take the T to Harvard Square, where a fellow skater would then pick her up for the drive. More intensive training happened off the ice and back in Hong Kong, as Ren took her spring semester off to prepare in China six days a week for the month prior to the winter games. Preparation included two hours of ice time nearly every day, and then four hours of off-the-ice work, mainly running, jumping and strength training with weights.

“I was very nervous, because it is such a major competition and I really hoped to do well because it was Hong Kong’s first appearance,” said Ren. “My coach said ‘just do your best,’ so compared to some countries we didn’t have as much pressure, and we had not been competing as long.”

Ren vied in the 500-, 1000- and 1500-meter speed skating events, placing 29th, 23rd and 26th, respectively.“I wanted to beat my personal records, and I did in all three events,” she said. “My parents came to see the 1500, and I was really happy they were there to watch me. The competition experience was great.”

Following her excitement in Utah, Ren used the remainder of her semester off to take classes at Beijing University’s Council of International Educational Exchange Studies, taking five courses in both Chinese and English. Her summer was spent partly in China to train in skating, with the remainder in Japan, where she was chosen to work as an ice hockey camp instructor since they required someone who could not only skate, but could also speak English well. Ren speaks fluent English, Cantonese and Mandarin, as well as a smattering of Japanese, Spanish and French.

Now back at Tufts in her second year, Ren said she still feels “like a freshman” but is finally finding her way around campus. She’s contemplating a major of either economics or psychology and keeps herself busy with tennis, helping out as a tutor in Chinese, and serving on the campus board of the Hong Kong Students’ Association and as a regional (Hong Kong) representative for the student outreach program for the Admissions Office. She also hopes to initiate an ice skating club at Tufts and would like to work on the Tufts Daily.

In the meantime, there is also the next Winter Olympic Games to think about. They are slated for Italy in 2006. “I’m still going to a few practices now, but I’m not sure if I’ll be competing,” she said. “I’ll just see how things go. “It was a great experience and I’d love to go again.”