Throwback Thursday: Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao

The Olympics are upon us! Hooray! This post marks the last Throwback Thursday post for the Sochi Olympics. The next Throwback Thursdays will come if this blog is still alive in 4 years for Pyeongchang 2018.

Shen and Zhao - Olympics SP

For my last Throwback Thursday post, I wanted to feature skaters who I thought exemplified the best of the Olympic spirit.

Firstly, it must be said that Shen & Zhao’s success grew out of someone else’s resolve after their own personal failures. That person, is their coach, Bin Yao. Bin Yao’s story is a favourite among commentators: back when Bin Yao was a pairs skater himself, China was still quite closed off to the rest of the world and figure skating was indeed a very foreign sport in China. Yao could only learn about pairs skating elements through photographs in books. In all their competitions, Yao and his partner never did very well – in fact, the audience was laughing at them at the 1980 World Championships. However, 30 years later, Yao established himself as one of the foremost coaches in pairs skating and he has single-handedly turned China into a pairs powerhouse. At the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, his students placed 1st, 2nd and 5th. Now, Shen & Zhao coach alongside Bin Yao, inspiring and improving the next generation of Chinese pairs skaters.

Shen & Zhao is a beautiful team not only because of their love for each other but for the love of their sport. At the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, they were aged 31 and 36 respectively. In terms of pairs skating, that is considered to be very ancient since the competitive life of a figure skater is short. The sport is dominated by teenagers and skaters often retire by age 25. Injuries are not unusual and in a discipline that requires athletes to throw or be be thrown around, being young is always helpful. Yet, despite all of this, Shen & Zhao persevered, set records throughout that season and became Olympic Champions.

For showing us that the impossible was possible, for showing us that age does not always prevent you from triumphing in a sport ruled by teenagers and for inspiring a new generation of skaters with their resilience, love of sport and ambition, I present to you Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao, the last athletes for the Sochi 2014 Throwback Thursday posts.

Gold medallists China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo pose during the medals ceremony after the pairs figure skating finals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

The Olympics are here! Are you excited?

~The Rinkside Cafe

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