November 15, 2022
BEIJING – Skating greats Sui Wenjing and Han Cong say nation’s support key to glorious career
Winning figure skating pairs gold at Beijing 2022 was the culmination of 15 years’ hard work and perseverance for Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.
Delving deeper into the reasons behind their success for the China Daily-produced documentary Era of Excellence, the golden duo cited not only their personal efforts but also the tremendous support from the nation and rapid development of Chinese winter sports.
“Throughout our careers, we have witnessed the rapid development of Chinese winter sports. As athletes, we have more and more comprehensive support. More organizations from all sectors of society can contribute to Chinese winter sports,” Han told China Daily.
Throughout our careers, we have witnessed the rapid development of Chinese winter sports. As athletes, we have more and more comprehensive support. More organizations from all sectors of society can contribute to Chinese winter sports.
Han Cong, Chinese skater
“For instance, athletes can now avail of much better medical and rehabilitation treatment, so that we can always return to the rink. As athletes, we need to be away from home and from our families for long periods for training and competition, so it’s the wonderful family of Chinese winter sports that has been with us all the way.
“The nation provides us with the best environment, and that is exemplified by the superb Beijing 2022 venues. All those elements combine to show that Chinese winter sports are getting stronger and stronger.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Sui, who told China Daily: “I still remember the first dress I wore in competition. It was handmade by my grandmother, and a good dress for competition was undoubtedly a luxury back then.
“Now we have a lot more options in regard to costumes and we can even design them ourselves. That’s just a small example of how Chinese winter sports have progressed throughout the years. We are lucky to have the chance to shine in such an era.”
Illustrating the pair’s words, the promotion of winter sports leading up to Beijing 2022 resulted in 346 million Chinese taking part in ice and snow sports and related leisure activities, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Moreover, a total of 654 standard ice rinks and 803 ski resorts were operating in China by the start of last year, increases of 317 percent and 41 percent respectively from 2015, when China won the bid to host the Winter Olympics.
Even with all the support from the nation, Han and Sui’s road to glory has not been smooth, with injuries the biggest enemy for the pair.
A total of 654 standard ice rinks and 803 ski resorts were operating in China by the start of last year, increases of 317 percent and 41 percent respectively from 2015, when China won the bid to host the Winter Olympics
“A minor injury can end an athlete’s career. I have sustained career-threatening injuries countless times. I had surgery on both ankles. I also suffered from osteoarthritis and a rupture. And then in 2021, I discovered some complications in the area where I had surgery,” recalled Sui.
“To be honest, I had second thoughts and was pretty concerned. After these surgeries, I had to relearn how to walk and skate. Before returning to competition, I would be so stressed out that I would call my family and friends every single day and sob over the phone.”
Hip surgery in 2012 left Han in pain every time he jumped or performed a sitting spin. He discovered that the best remedy was the support he could rely on from the entire Chinese figure skating team.
“During those tough times, I received immense support from Wenjing and our teams, including our mentors and coaches. That’s how I pulled myself through until the end of Beijing 2022,” Han added.
That solidarity paid off when Sui and Han topped the podium at the world championships for the first time in 2017. The following year, they made their Olympic debuts in Pyeongchang, where they missed out on gold by the tiniest of margins and had to settle for silver.
They won their second world title in 2019 before realizing the ultimate dream of winning Olympic gold in Beijing this year. In a poignant winning program on home ice, Han and Sui skated to Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, the same music they performed to when winning gold at the 2017 world championships.
“Our choreographer, Lori Nichol, once shared her interpretation with us. She said that when Wenjing underwent surgery, I supported her and helped her to stand up again, like a bridge. Later when I had surgery, Wenjing was there for me like a bridge,” Han explained.
“Over the years, it is our support for each other that propelled us to gold at Beijing 2022. Our program became a distillation of the updated Olympic motto: ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger — Together’.
“We hoped that as the global audience watched our story unfold, people from all over the world would be united by the Winter Olympics. We wanted to create a bridge that connects people from different countries and cultures and support each other during difficult times.”
Both Sui and Han also want to inspire the next generation to embrace sports and bravely face the challenges of their lives.
“We need to set examples for the younger generation. Through winning gold at Beijing 2022, more people know who we are. I just want to send one simple message that sports really have changed me a lot,” said Sui. “There are many books now that teach young people how to be successful. But sports are about teaching you how to be strong and cope with failure. Sports can be very inspirational.
“There are so many details, such as how to deal with defeats and how to manage our lives away from our parents. Through all these journeys, we can find a better version of ourselves.”