Athletic Passion



In 2007, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong began to train as a pair under the instruction of Luan Bo, a famous Chinese skater. At that time, Sui was 12 and Han 15. Eight years have passed since the pair began working hand-in-hand on the ice.           


Leap to Figure Skating

One day, his kindergarten teacher encouraged Han Cong to try roller skating. Soon, Han and his friends were all lacing up skates. “I knew nothing about skating when I was young,” recalls Han. “After getting scratched up and scrambling onto ice, I quickly fell in love.”

There were times he tired of the hobby and considered giving it up. He stopped training after injuring his foot, but his future coach visited, scouting for young talent, and inspired Han to return to the rink.

“I was not enthusiastic about it because I had already made up my mind to give it up,” continues Han. “Everyone on my team wanted to join the national team. I had to start from scratch and had little self-confidence because both my moves and cross steps were ugly. Many doubted that a skater like me could ever compete in pairs: I was not tall enough and my performance was heavily flawed. However, the more doubts others expressed, the harder I worked to prove myself. I strictly followed the instruction of my coach and progressed day-by-day.”

“A slow sparrow should start early,” taught his teacher in junior high school. He took the initiative to double his training load and work on more advanced moves. “Every successful jump produced a sense of achievement,” he reveals. “Later, I started working with partners with whom I could practice throws and spins. I became completely obsessed and couldn’t let go! I’m grateful to my family for their consistent support from day one.”

Sui Wenjing “put her neck in the noose” on the ice. In 2003, she saw a TV competition featuring well-known Chinese athletes Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue. “It was so beautiful that I made up my mind to learn figure skating right away,” Sui explains, despite the fact that she knew hardly anything about it. “I got so obsessed that I didn’t hesitate to learn. In fact, I was already late to the game at age eight while many kids had begun receiving professional training at four or five. I was often sick, and my parents hoped the exercise would help me keep fit.”

Sui Wenjing studied hard and produced excellent academic records at school. Her mother pushed her to concentrate on more intellectual disciplines than sports. The little girl became so devoted to the ice that her mother tried every trick in the book to change her mind.

“At that time, it took about an hour to reach the skating rink by bus,” recalls Sui. “I still remember that one day, my mom wouldn’t let me go until I finished my homework, but I still insisted. ‘All right. If you really want to go, go on foot!’ And I did because I didn’t have a penny in my pocket. The training was over by the time I got there. It was extremely cold. I returned, crying, with my tears and snot frozen to my face. My mom was overwhelmed. ‘Okay, I give up.’ Since then, she has always stood behind me, cheering me on.”


Stoop to Conquer

The year 2012 was shiny for both Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who took top honors at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, their first trophy. They were promoted to the senior group. Their joy of the triumph, the first success of their career, didn’t last long, however.

“I felt incessant pain in my foot during training,” Sui recalls. “I could hardly continue and went to see a doctor. I was diagnosed with epiphysitis in addition to four ruptured ligaments, which I hadn’t even realized.”  

The pair missed a year and half of competition but continued training. “During that period, we reached a lot of tacit understanding and made slow progress,” explains Han Cong. “We wanted to keep improving and never gave up on each other. I encouraged her to rehearse on the floor during her rehabilitation to keep everything sharp.”

Every day, he carried her on his back between the dorm and the training center.

And she returned to the arena with the help of painkillers.

“She insisted she was okay for competition,” sighs Han Cong. “She wept all the way to the rink, and we returned after finishing twelfth.”

Their comeback took a long time. In 2014, China made moves to enhance its national figure skating team, and the pair was transferred from Harbin to Beijing for intensified training.

March 26, 2015, was a big day for Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who took the Silver Medal with total points of 214.12 in free skating at the World Figure Skating Championships of the International Skating Union and set new personal records. It was their first medal ever in world championships.

Recalling that competition, Sui is nostalgic. It was the first time that the world figure skating championships were hosted by China, which provided a stage for them to display their best to the home crowd. “It was also a chance for us to prove that we had passed our darkest days and ready to maximize our talent,” asserts Sui. “I was extremely excited and could hardly back tears when I bowed to the audience.”

Training and competition have become integral parts of their lives. “We aren’t affected much by sweat, pain or injuries anymore,” they declare. Everyone on the team works hard to do their best and honor the country while improving their own lives as well as their family. As for the new generation of the team born in the 1990s, they have different ideas than the older generation about competition and their careers. “We can see more clearly where we need to go and we persist because we love the sport.”

Like other young people in the internet era, they emphasize personality, love snapping selfies, express themselves by microblogging, and frequently share photos with friends on Wechat.

“We trained during last Spring Festival,” remarks Sui Wenjing. “We didn’t go home. I miss my family even more during holidays. So I called my mom and asked her to scan old photos of me as a child so I could share them with my fans on my microblog.”


Source: China Pictorial