Feature: Chinese Olympians back to rink with persistence, devotion for figure skating

(Xinhua) 13:17, November 13, 2023

CHONGQING, China, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese figure skater Peng Cheng highlighted her comeback to the rink with exquisite skating show-off at the Cup of China, the first ISU A-class tournament for the three-time Olympian and her new partner Wang Lei.

Teaming up in March, 26-year-old Peng and Wang, already 35, claimed a bronze here on Saturday on their ISU Grand Prix debut, with 62.91 points in the pairs short program, 115.15 in the free skate and 178.06 overall, finishing 23 points behind eventual champions Deanna Stelato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada.

"We're still trying to tune up, especially on our side by side jumps. We know we're not good enough yet together, but we're working on it and keep improving," said Wang, who previously paired with Wang Xuehan to win the 2015-2016 national championships.

"On a 100-point evaluating system, I think we can score 60-70 points now," Peng echoed. "Elite sport is an uphill battle, and we'll keep moving forward."

Despite being the younger of the pair, Peng actually made her name on the international stage earlier than Wang, pairing with former Olympic silver medalist Zhang Hao to finish eighth in the Sochi 2014 Winter Games at the age of 16, before hitting the Olympic rinks two more times at PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022.

After finishing fifth in her home Olympics with Jin Yang, Peng had skipped the 2022 World Championships and the whole 2022-23 season before her club confirmed to media in June that the Beijing team skater had parted ways with 29-year-old Jin, putting an end to their seven-year cooperation.

"The first thing we confirmed with each other was that we were on the same page when talking about the future. We both long for a further step in our respective career plannings. In one word, Milan! We want to be there as competitors representing China," Peng said, referring to the Milan-Cortina Olympic Winter Games in 2026.

"Absolutely! To compete in an Olympic Winter Games has been my dream, and when Peng asked whether I'm interested in pairing up with her for another try, I said why not! I'd like to go all out for that," Wang said.

"When you and your partner look at the same direction, everything else goes smoothly," Peng added. "We work hard together, overcome the difficulties of being a new pairing, and handle all the pressures both mentally and technically, which makes the training and pain of injuries less bitter."

Jin Boyang and Zhu Yi, both China' Olympians at Beijing 2022, also made their ISU GP comeback at the Cup of China in Chongqing after more than a year-long absence from competitive figure skating, citing injuries among other reasons.

"I think the best me is back. I feel even better than my 18-year-old self, since I stood in the rink here today with a stronger mindset, knowing definitely what I want and what I should do," said 26-year-old Jin.

The two-time world bronze medalist improved his eighth placing from his season debut last weekend at the Grand Prix de France to seventh in Chongqing with a personal season best short program of 87.44 and a 149.84-point free skate, totaling 237.28 points.

"Love and persistence to a sport is the best reason. And figure skating is my love with my whole life. That's why I'm still hanging in there," added Jin, who achieved the best result in Olympic men's skating for China in 2018 when finishing fourth in PyeongChang, also placing ninth in Beijing four years later.

"I enjoy my current state of life, despite being busy with both academic and injury-free competitive things," Zhu, a sophomore of Peking University, commented after pulling up from bottom to tenth place among 11 women skaters.

As the fourth of six events of the ISU Grand Prix Series in which the world's best figure skaters collect points towards the 2023-2024 GP Final in Beijing next month, the Cup of China is a proving ground for China's next generation of figure skaters.

Earlier in the year, China's pair skating Olympic champion Han Cong announced plans to skip all competitions of the current Olympic cycle because of injury, meaning the 31-year-old and his 28-year-old partner Sui Wenjing will not be able to defend their Olympic title in 2026.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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