|China's Shen Xue (R) and Zhao
Hongbo perform to win the pairs free program of the World Figure Skating Championships
in Tokyo March 21, 2007.
The pair, who had announced their retirement after the championships, won
the world title. [Reuters]|
Having finished their farewell program as national pair skaters at the
ongoing Championships in Tokyo, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo embraced on the ice
with a kiss on the cheek from Zhao to his partner, waved to crowd, who threw
toys and flowers as salute towards the ice, kissed the ice for difficult
good-bye and hugged their coach Yao Bin with tears.
That was the emotional adieu of
the top Chinese ice lovers, which yielded their third and most deserved world
champion as a leaving present.
Having announced plans to retire at the end of the season when the Champions
concludes, Shen and Zhao look poised to exit in a blaze of glory having finished
top of the podium in every event they have entered this season, including the
Grand Prix final and Winter Asian Games.
Have paired with each other for as long as 15 years, they earned three world
champions, two Olympic bronzes and numerous Grand Slams titles, merely missed,
however, a single Olympic gold.
With still three years away to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, 28-year-old
Shen Xue and her 33-year-old partner seem to run short of energy.
"The intensive training in the national team is too much for us, so we have
decided take a leave from the team for a while for a rest," said Shen Xue before
The "while" Shen mentioned may be two years from now on. "We will return if
our form remains at that time. After all, we need an Olympic gold," the pair
The pair needs to grab the demanded rankings at the Championships and Olympic
qualifications the year before the Olympics to book a berth to Vancouver in
The 2010 Games emerged to be the best chance for the veteran pair to fulfill
their Olympic dream as their arch rival, 2006 Turin Olympic gold winners Tatiana
Totmianina and Maxim Marinin from Russia have retired.
A bronze finish at Turin as it was, it was won under the condition that Zhao
had just recovered from an injured Achilles tendon the year before.
Seen from their performance at the Tokyo Championships, where they delivered
perfect toeloop jumps and throw jumps in a violin piece Meditation from Thai by
French composer Jules Massenet, they seem to stand a big chance to mark their
names on the Vancouver gold.
But, in case they fail to roll back the years in 2009, is there any pair to
become China's talismen for a Olympic gold?
The prospect now seems bright as China still has newly-crowned world champion
pair Pang Qing and Tong Jian and Turin Olympic silver medalists Zhang Dan and
The veteran pair, however, is still cherishing, and will cherish their
World Figure Skating Championships: 世界花样滑冰锦标赛