Chinas Shen Xue (R) and Zhao Hongbo perform to win the pairsfreeprogram of the World Figure Skating Championships in TokyoMarch21, 2007. The pair, who had announced their retirement afterthechampionships, won the world title. [Reuters]
Having finished their farewell program as national pair skatersatthe ongoing Championships in Tokyo, Shen Xue and ZhaoHongboembraced on the ice with a kiss on the cheek from Zhao tohispartner, waved to crowd, who threw toys and flowers assalutetowards the ice, kissed the ice for difficult good-bye andhuggedtheir coach Yao Bin with tears.
That was the emotional adieu of the top Chinese ice lovers,whichyielded their third and most deserved world champion as aleavingpresent.
Having announced plans to retire at the end of the season whentheChampions concludes, Shen and Zhao look poised to exit in ablaze ofglory having finished top of the podium in every eventthey haveentered this season, including the Grand Prix final andWinter AsianGames.
Have paired with each other for as long as 15 years, theyearnedthree world champions, two Olympic bronzes and numerous GrandSlamstitles, merely missed, however, a single Olympic gold.
With still three years away to the 2010 Vancouver OlympicGames,28-year-old Shen Xue and her 33-year-old partner seem to runshortof energy.
The intensive training in the national team is too much forus,so we have decided take a leave from the team for a while forarest, said Shen Xue before the Championships.
The while Shen mentioned may be two years from now on. Wewillreturn if our form remains at that time. After all, we needanOlympic gold, the pair said.
The pair needs to grab the demanded rankings at theChampionshipsand Olympic qualifications the year before theOlympics to book aberth to Vancouver in 2010.
The 2010 Games emerged to be the best chance for the veteranpairto fulfill their Olympic dream as their arch rival, 2006TurinOlympic gold winners Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim MarininfromRussia have retired.
A bronze finish at Turin as it was, it was won under theconditionthat Zhao had just recovered from an injured Achillestendon theyear before.
Seen from their performance at the Tokyo Championships, wheretheydelivered perfect toeloop jumps and throw jumps in a violinpieceMeditation from Thai by French composer Jules Massenet, theyseem tostand a big chance to mark their names on the Vancouvergold.
But, in case they fail to roll back the years in 2009, isthereany pair to become Chinas talismen for a Olympic gold?
The prospect now seems bcenter as China still hasnewly-crownedworld champion pair Pang Qing and Tong Jian and TurinOlympicsilver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao.
The veteran pair, however, is still cherishing, and willcherishtheir Olympic dream.
World Figure Skating Championships