Pair’s victory boosts natl sport spirit to new peak
Golden partnership
Published: Feb 20, 2022 11:19 PM
Sui Wenjing (right) and Han Cong compete in the pairs free skate program at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 19, 2022, in Beijing. Photo: VCG

Sui Wenjing (right) and Han Cong compete in the pairs free skate program at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 19, 2022, in Beijing. Photo: VCG

When the score - 239.88 points - was announced at the Beijing Capital Indoor Stadium, ­Chinese figure skating pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong embraced each other and wept tears of joy. The two-time world champions broke the world record in the short program on Friday and earned a precious gold medal in pairs skating after the free skate on Saturday, one day before the successful ending of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Sunday.

Fevered cheers and thunderous applause filled the stadium. 

"All of us watching cried out in ecstasy when we saw the final score. The duo finally made up for the regret of missing the gold medal four years ago in Pyeongchang," Zhang Zhen, a ­spectator who watched live at the stadium, told the Global Times on Sunday.  

The Chinese duo's triumph not only helped boost China's gold medal tally to nine, overtaking the US in the overall medal table, but also is a response to their regret at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea where they missed the gold by a mere margin of 0.43 points.

At the Beijing 2022 Winter ­Olympics, they beat silver medalists Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov from the Russian Olympic Committee by 0.63 points, successfully challenging Russian dominance in figure skating.

"We are not young anymore. We pursue the Olympic spirit in attempting the quad. We hope to achieve in both skills and artistic presentation," said 30-year-old Han.

As the only pairs team to perform a quadruple jump, Sui's lighting fast twirls and rafter-reaching height earned them 10.42 points, the highest technical score for an element of the entire pairs competition. The duo proved themselves with a nearly ­flawless performance, and this is a powerful refutation that Han answered when a foreign reporter questioned the score at a press conference on Sunday. 

Sui Wenjing puts the gold medal around the neck of Han Cong on February 19, 2022. Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

Sui Wenjing puts the gold medal around the neck of Han Cong on February 19, 2022. Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

"We've been thinking about the quadruple jump for a long time, ever since Pyeongchang," Sui said in a media interview. 

"We thought with the quadruple we can get more [points]; it's our killer move. After all, the Olympic spirit is faster, higher, stronger, so for us… we wanted to showcase our best program and always want to pursue the highest level of the Olympic spirit."

Turbulent road to success

"When you're weary, feeling small when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all. I'm on your side… Oh, if you need a friend, I'm sailing right behind…"

Sui and Han, who have partnered for 15 years since they were teens, are not simply performing to the music of the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water," but are interpreting their stories full of ups and downs.

When the two paired up in 2007, few were optimistic about them due to their average height and height ­difference. "I knew I was not gifted, so I have to work hard to make up for what I was born with," said Han.

At the 2015 ISU Figure Skating World Championships, Sui and Han proved themselves by claiming a silver medal. However, ankle injuries on Sui's feet put a pause on her skating career. With a year-long recovery, Sui and Han appeared on the stage at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, winning a gold medal. 

After claiming a silver medal at the Pyeongchang 2018, Han said the Olympic gold is their next goal. "We will continue to perform our best." 

After winning the gold medal, Sui said she feels very lucky to meet Han. "We have been partners for 15 years, and it has been the best arrangement along the way."

Representation of sportsmanship 

On Chinese Twitter-like Sina Weibo, hashtag that Sui and Han winning a gold medal has earned 650 million views as of press time. Netizens' flooded cheers have conquered social media platforms.

"They made it! I was so nervous that I was holding my breath when I was watching their performance on TV. It's hard to imagine how much effort they had to put in to achieve their success," an audience surnamed Liu told the Global Times.

"Sui and Han's win reflects their excellent strength and quality, coming out in the final after the three Russian pairs, facing tremendous pressure and challenging moves they had never tried before to win their coveted title," Ren Hai, a professor at the Olympic Research Center of Beijing Sports University, told the Global Times. 

Zhang Zhen, the spectator, echoed that the two fulfilled their dream of winning a gold medal by walking hand in hand to the stage of the Beijing 2022. "This kind of unremitting pursuit of dreams, as well as four years of hard training and perseverance, is also the best interpretation of Chinese sportsmanship."

The strength of the Chinese athletes' performances for the nation goes beyond the court. Especially in the long grip of the epidemic, their courage and mental strength is especially valuable, said Ren. 

Much of the light of Team China's success in Beijing came from the rising stars of snow sports. However, in the traditionally strong events like figure skating and short track speed skating, the legacy of generational sportsmanship shown by the Chinese athletes also struck an extraordinarily strong chord with the Chinese audience, said Ren.

"The occasion of the Olympics can reflect that personal honor and development are inseparable from the future of the country. Their performance is the best expression of China's national spirit," he said.