Golden figure skating pair sets a shining example of hard work and dedication

Chinese figure skaters Sui Wenjing and Han Cong hope that their story will attract more people to winter sports.


Sui Wenjing bursts into tears in the arms of Han Cong after finishing their gold-winning performance in the pairs free skate program at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Feb 19. (XIONG QI / XINHUA)

May 12, 2022

BEIJING – It was a golden moment, but the path to Olympic glory had been littered with obstacles and heartache. Finally, after 15 years, their dream of winning pairs figure skating gold at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics was realized, albeit after a fair share of disappointment. Sui Wenjing and Han Cong hope that their story will attract more people to winter sports and set an example for the younger generation to bravely pursue their dreams.

“We are born in a great time with great opportunities,” said Sui during China Daily’s exclusive interview with the pair.

“All we need to do is to fight toward the hope and seize the chances. We need to keep our passion and fight for our dreams. I never doubted myself and failure is never my option. But there are different definitions of success for different people.

“For me, my success is to always be better than the version of myself a second ago. And that same belief will support me to achieve more in the future.”

The pair performs on the ice. (ZHANG WEI / CHINA DAILY)

Sui, 26, and Han, 29, shone brightly at Beijing 2022 in February, as they claimed their first Olympic figure skating pairs title. The triumph was China’s second ever Olympic title in the discipline. The first was won by Sui and Han’s coach, Zhao Hongbo, and his partner, Shen Xue, at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

“I always like to say that great moments are born from great opportunity,” Han adds. “For us, the opportunity occurred thanks to our perseverance over the past 15 years. We achieved great results as we have won all the possible gold medals that we could have since we were junior skaters.”

However, the pair’s journey toward the podium of Winter Olympic glory was strewn with misfortune. After winning the world championship for the first time in 2017, the following year, Sui suffered a stress fracture in her foot and missed the 2018 Grand Prix season.

They returned in time for their Olympic debut in Pyeongchang 2018, where they won the silver medal, just missing out on the gold secured by Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany by tiniest of margins.

They wave from the podium after winning gold at the Games. (FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY)

The Chinese pair won their second world title in 2019, but their preparations for the Beijing Games were interrupted when Han underwent hip surgery in April 2020. But they kept waiting and supporting each other throughout the injuries and setbacks, and eventually conquered the biggest stage together.

“I just felt so lucky to meet Han, and together we achieved something incredible,” says Sui. “And we set great examples. Before us, it was hard for skaters of our physical stature to reach such a high level in pairs skating, but we showed the possibilities.”

A key issue during Sui and Han’s preparation for the Beijing 2022 was to find a song for their free skate program. Eventually, they skated to Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, the same music they performed to when winning the 2017 world championships.

On Feb 19, their gold-winning performance to the song at the Beijing Games wowed the world-and Sui burst into tears in Han’s arms after finishing. For the pair, the rhythm and the lyrics of the song is the perfect match of their stories of dedication and the support of each other, especially during the hard times.

“We have great communication, and we feel that song is just like our story,” Han explains. “And we used the song just twice and both times achieved success.

“The song is really famous. And, as the world faces the challenges of the pandemic together, through the song, and our performances at the Olympics, we hoped to build a golden bridge in the hearts of people to connect the world.”

But the triumph did not come easily and required a great deal of sacrifice, says Han.

“For me, I consider the whole process as a journey to seek perfection. I also think that’s a tradition among Chinese figure skaters. The dedication of different generations of Chinese skaters is one of the major reasons why Chinese winter sports are growing stronger.”

Sui adds that she has been practicing figure skating for more than 20 years. Sui, who trained as a dancer before figure skating, believed she “first needed to become an artist before becoming an ice skater”.

The pair stresses that it’s impossible for them alone to reach such a high level. Their triumph was due to a team working behind the scenes and the support of their families.

“That’s the result of the passion of all Chinese figure skaters, coaches and people who have been working in the sport. The passion is also mixed with partnerships, love, dedication and hard work,” Han says.

“The younger generation should have the same passion to fight hard for their dreams and make a contribution to the development of their country. And they shouldn’t be afraid when they face setbacks, because there are always people who love and stand behind them.”

Sui and Han have started a new chapter of lives, seeking new possibilities. Sui is learning public speaking, as well as English and Japanese. She has also started writing her autobiography.

“I just feel people need to continue to explore. And through the process, we can earn the recognition of people from different sectors. I think that’s a way of gaining more confidence,” says Sui.

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