Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo: A Love Story About Skating and the Pursuit of a Dream

It’s been over two weeks since we were inspired by the wonderful story of Chinese pairs figure skaters, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, who won the Olympic Gold medal. Their incredible dedication to ice-skating and to each other was an emotional success, as Shen and Zhao became the first Chinese Gold Medalists in figure skating at age 31 and 36 respectively. 

What I loved hearing about this wonderful couple was the story behind their success.  

Shen and Zhao began skating 18 years ago, in 1992.  That’s before many of the competitors of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were even born.  When Korean Ladies Figure Skating Gold medalist, Yu Na Kim, was only one  year old.  When Canadian Ice Skating Gold Medalists, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, were 2 and 4.

Shen and Zhao  retired in 2007 after winning the world championships three times and the bronze in two separate Olympics.  Of course, they wanted the Gold medal, yet somehow it had always seemed to escape them.  Something else also happened in 2007.  Zhao proposed to Shen on the ice following an incredible World Championship performance in Tokyo.  He got down on one knee and proposed and Shen, not understanding what was going on at first, also got down on her knees, and then said "yes". They were married in May 2007.   

As they continued to tour with Stars on Ice in the US, Shen and Zhao’s dreams of capturing the Olympic Gold seemed to be over. After all, they were retired and Zhao previously had an almost career-ending Achilles injury. But Zhao managed to convince Shen to come back for one more try.  They came out of retirement in 2009 and began their comeback by appropriately winning the Cup of China last season and going on to win all of their events, and also setting a new world record at the prestigious Grand Prix Final.  

But the road out of retirement and back to Olympic medal pursuit meant putting a hold on the intimate and more personal part of their  marriage because Chinese Olympians are required to live and train in the Chinese Olympic facilities. That means living in separate dorms with all meals eaten with all of the other athletes.   

Then the moment came to see if it would all pay off.  Zhao and Shen skated an incredibly strong performance; moving and near flawless.  Zhao told the Xinhua news agency that:  "We wanted the program to show all that we have, and we made it," and Shen added:  "It’s the best gift for the Valentine’s Day."

In the long program, their Chinese rivals, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, raised the heat by skating a near-flawless long program. But ultimately Shen and Zhao were successful, capturing their dream, with Pang and Tong capturing the silver medal.  Zhao summed it all up by saying: “We’ve been in competitions for many years, and won other medals … but every time we heard the national anthem and saw our flag being raised, we wished it was the Olympic Games. Today we’ve achieved our goal.”

Yes, Shen and Zhao,  you did indeed achieve your goal.  And  along the way you inspired us with your dedication, determination, and the love you have not only for each other, but also for ice-skating.  Thank you and may your career and life be richly blessed now and always.