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All that glitters is not gold

By Yu Yilei (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-02-17 12:16
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As we lavish praises on Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo for winning China's first-ever Olympic figure skating gold medal on Monday night (Read the news) at the Vancouver Games, we should not neglect the silver-winning pair of Pang Qing and Tong Jian anymore.

Pang and Tong have been living in the shadows of Shen and Zhao and even their younger teammates Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, the silver medalists in Turin four years ago and fifth-ranking placers in Vancouver, despite winning the world title in 2006.

Not this time.

They made their own moment by simply giving the most inspiring and perfect performance of the night and sent the packed stadium into a standing ovation.

Even Shen and Zhao were not able to match them, making a sloppy mistake while executing a would-be easy lift. But they were cushioned by a big overnight lead thanks to their perfect short program on Sunday and won the event with a three-point advantage over Pang and Tong.

All that glitters is not gold

Gold medallists China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo (L) hold their country's flag with compatriots silver medallists Pang Qing and Tong Jian (R) at the medals ceremony after the pairs figure skating finals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 15, 2010. [Photo/Agencies]

In my eyes, Shen and Zhao were awarded not just for what they did on Monday night, or what they did on Sunday night, but for what they have done through the years.

The four-time Olympians displayed an extreme passion for the sport and a strong determination to pursue and achieve their ultimate dreams, which are rarely seen in the somewhat vulnerable figure skating world.

There are too many dramas around them – Zhao's Achilles' tendon fracture six months before the 2006 Turin Games (they overcame it and won a bronze medal in Turin), their marriage right after winning their third world title in 2007 (they also retired right after the competition), their comeback last May (they lived in separate dormitories in Beijing and trained really hard since then) and their ages (he is 36 and she is 31).

Those dramas set them apart from other competitors in an emotional aspect.

There is no better story than having them winning the elusive Olympic gold, the only thing previously missing in their decade-long glorious career.

Now it's Pang and Tong's turn to go for the gold.

The low-profile duo has been waiting patiently for a long time to make into the Olympic podium. They should do so in Turin but they were pushed to fourth by compatriots Zhang and Zhang who came back from a nasty fall at the beginning of the program and went on to win a silver medal dramatically.

With Monday's free skating, Pang and Tong legitimately lifted themselves into the level of master skaters who can communicate with the audience with their performance like Shen and Zhao.

And they are having the dramas of their own.

During a post-match interview, Tong admitted his relationship with Pang in public for the first time. He said he planned to give his partner a sweet kiss right after their ending pose but he just could not catch the excited Pang who was busy acknowledging the roaring audience. So he kneed down and kissed the ice rink.

(Memo: What Pang did is a good reminder of Zhao a couple of years ago – right after finishing the long program at the 2007 World Championships in Tokyo, Zhao kneed down on ice and tried to propose to his partner Shen while soaking in a standing ovation in the stadium. But Shen was simply too excited to notice what Zhao was trying to do at that time.)

After so many years of hard efforts, Pang and Tong finally turned into a sort of charming skating pair with not only the biggest tricks in the world, but also a intriguing relationship between each other.

Will they be able to hang in there for a few years and come back at the 2014 Sochi Games and do what Shen and Zhao did in Vancouver? Let's just wait and see.