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China Expects New Era in Figure Skating
   2015-03-28 21:36:01    Xinhua      Web Editor: Xie Cheng

(L-R) Sui Wenjing & Han Cong, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, Pang Qing & Tong Jian at the ISU World Figure Skating Championship medal ceremony at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center on March 26, 2015. [Photo: CFP]

China's veterans Pang Qing and Tong Jian ended their career with a beautiful last dance at the ISU Figure Skating World Championships in Shanghai, and their retirement ends an era of China's figure skating but at the same time opens a new one.

China's Winter Sports Administration Center head Ren Hongguo is optimistic about the future of China's figure skating.

"We will do something," he told Xinhua here on Saturday. "We will hire some top foreign coaches to teach our skaters after the season, especially in the techniques. Li Zijun and Yan Han are both talented skaters and have great potential. Our pairs are not the best in the world, but still quite strong."

"The reason Russia have claimed so many good results in figure skating in recent years is they own best coaches in the world," he added. "We will spend money on it."

The two-time world championships winners and three-time world medallists took a bronze with their last dance, earning 140.18 points in free skating and collected 212.77 points in total on late Thursday. Canadian pair Meagan Duhamel and Eric Redford clinched the title with 221.52 points, while young Chinese duo Sui Wending and Han Cong took the silver in 214.12.

The pair had retired after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games but came out to compete on home ice in their 16th world championships.

Pang and Tong are among the most famous and successful figure skaters in China at the same period with Shen Xue/Zhao Hongbo and Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao. The three pairs created a legend in the world figure skating history: they appeared in the arenas of world championships and Olympic Winter Games and entered the top five at the same time, coming from the same city and directed by the same coach Yao Bin.

Figure skating was introduced into China from Britain, Japan and Russia through some northern Chinese cities during the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Zhang Shubin won men's skating in the 12th Winter Universiade held in Bellano, Italy in 1985, marking the first Chinese figure skating world champion in a comprehensive world event.

Chen Lu won the first gold at the world championships in Britain in 1995. She was also the first Chinese Winter Olympic medallist by taking bronzes in 1994 and 1998 Winter Games.

The pairs figure skating had its breakthrough in 2002 as Shen Xue/Zhao Hongbo won a bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The duo won gold medals in 2002 and 2003 world championships, and during these years, Pang and Tong, and Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao joined the top echelon of China's pair skating team.

Zhang/Zhang and Shen/Zhao took the silver and bronze respectively at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, while Pang/Tong came the fourth. Shen/Zhao won China's first Olympic figure skating gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games while Pang/Tong was the second.

Shen/Zhao retired after the Vancouver Games, and Pang/Tong kept on taking part in the Sochi Games with a fourth finish.

The three pairs have in total won one gold medal, two silver medals and two bronze medals at the Olympic Games, as well as five gold medals, seven silver medals and four bronze medals at world championships.

After Pang/Tong's retirement, Zhang Hao is the only one still competing of the three pairs with his young partner Peng Cheng, as Zhang Dan retired in 2012.

"I will continue on skating," said the 30-year-old. "I love figure skating, and I want to take part in more Olympic Games."

The 17-year-old Peng need to improve her jump, while Zhang has to keep good physical condition.

"We need to rise the difficulty of the skaters," Ren said. "Both for the pairs and the singles. I hope they can have good performances in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games."

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