Figure Skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo: Beijing 2022 will usher in "new era" of figure skating culture in China

The third in a series profiling Chinese athletes in support of Beijing 2022

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo after winning China’s first figure skating Olympic gold ©Beijing 2022

Beijing, July 15 – To deliver Beijing 2022’s pledge to host an athlete-centered Games, China’s top winter Olympic athletes have played a key role in designing an Olympic and Paralympic Winter bid that prioritizes the athlete experience. As the official hosts of the immensely popular Artistry on Ice event last week – which gathered together some of the best figure skaters in the world – Beijing 2022 bid ambassadors and married couple Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo addressed the crowd of Beijingers saying:

"The Beijing 2022 Bid does not come out of some competitive desire for our country to win more gold medals, but rather to share our love of sport so that you too will be inspired to one day pick up your own pair of figure skates and come join us out on the ice."

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo have more than solidified their legendary status in the annals of China’s Winter Olympics pursuits due to their acquisition of a number of firsts for the country: They were the first Chinese pair team to win a medal at an ISU event and the World Figure Skating Championships; in 2002, they became the first Chinese pair to win a World Championship; at Salt Lake City 2002, they became the first Chinese pair skaters to win a medal at the Olympic Winter Games; finally, at Vancouver 2010 they once again made history by becoming the first Chinese skaters to win the gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games in any figure skating category. When asked what was running through their heads, Zhao said "winning Olympic gold was our lifelong dream…we knew that a new era of figure skating for the Chinese had just begun."

Almost right away, the two began to work on crafting this "new era" of figure skating in China: On February 17th, 2010, the two announced their definite retirement from competitive skating to focus on promoting their sport throughout China, as well as their own personal lives. Somehow the pair managed to combine both pursuits into one by getting married at the inaugural Artistry on Ice festival, consecrating their personal relationship of 18 years in front of 20,000 spectators at the literal "Wedding on Ice," all held at Beijing 2022 figure skating venue Capital Indoor Stadium.

Since then, the pair has been hard at work spreading this "new era" of figure skating culture in China. Zhao is now grooming the next generation of China’s star figure skaters at his hometown Harbin’s Skating Club, with students including recent 2015 ISU World Championship pairs silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, as well as rising stars (and 2015 Four Continents pairs silver medalists) Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao and 2015 Winter Universiade pairs gold medalists Yu Xiaoyu and Jin Yang.

However, since finding out that their nation’s capital was bidding for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the two have focused all of their efforts on stirring excitement and enthusiasm for the bid through numerous skating and charitable events.

"Since retiring, we have spent the past five years doing everything we can to bring this ‘new era’ of Chinese figure skating to fruition," Shen Xue said. "But there truly is nothing like hosting a Winter Olympics on their front doorsteps to inspire our fans to pick up figure skating. We truly believe that Beijing 2022 will be instrumental in ushering in the new era of figure skating culture in China."

As lifelong athletes who have also been working as coaches helping to train China’s rising stars, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo have witnessed the athlete experience from multiple perspectives: Thus, they have a unique gift to offer Beijing 2022 in its pursuit of designing a Winter Olympics bid that is fully athlete-centered, from the "end-to-end" athlete journey (including pre-Games, Games-time and post-Games) to the committee’s plans to establish an Athletes’ Commission involving athletes from every sport on the Winter Olympics program, which will help ensure that all athletes’ needs are fully met.

Shen Xue said: "In my years as an athlete, I have learned that a gold-medal effort involves the commitment of many, many people behind the scenes, including multiple generations of Chinese athletes. I am happy to do what I can to help make Beijing’s bid as perfect as it can be."

As part of her efforts to promote both the bid and winter sports development in China, Shen Xue traveled to Sochi’s Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) with a delegation of twenty-four other sports officials from all over China to begin a training course on all aspects involved when organizing and hosting a high-profile sports event. Shen Xue, who is working as Deputy Director of the Figure Skating department at the Winter Games Center, studied everything from on-site training to post-Games use of venues directly from those who held the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. As China’s president Xi Jinping put it, a cornerstone of Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games is that it would inspire "300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports." In the same vein, Zhao Hongbo called out to the local crowds at a Beijing 2022 charity event last April, saying: "Come on, get up, get out, and get active! We athletes are here to take our love of ice and snow, and share it with all of you."

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