The miracle of happenstance and incredible beauty is all around us. I spent 10 minutes of my lunch hour watching a YouTube presentation of the exceptional figure skating of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, 3 time World Champion Pairs skaters from China, sadly now retired from international competition.
Think about odds. First, that these two exceptional people HAPPENED to be born within a few miles of each other in Harbin, China. Second, that they HAPPENED to be discovered by Chinese athletic officials looking for possible skaters. Third that they HAPPENED to coalesce as a team to the point that they are now or are about to be married to each other.
Chinese figure skating was, until very recently, somewhat of a joke. Then Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao became part of the competitive circuit and everything began to change. Certainly when they began, they were famous mostly for their exceptional athletic abilities. The sheer courage that permits Xue Shen to be thrown through the air at the height, velocity and distance her partner propels her is to me absolutely astonishing. The trust she exhibits, together with that courage, makes her one of my most admired people at any time!
His courage in coming back from what should have been a career-ending blown Achilles tendon, and at an age when figure skaters are starting to lose a step or two anyway, makes Hongbo Zhao another hero of mine. To come back and participate in the 2006 Olympics and then win the 2007 World Championships is the result of herculean personal effort. No nationalism nor ideology could inform that dedication to one’s art – because that is what pairs skating is in the hands of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao.
The athleticism was first, but when they developed their artistic style, my how they began to shine! The exceptional unity of their presentation, the grace and flow across the ice is absolutely stunning.
I salute the pair of them and thank them sincerely for the many years of pleasure their skating has provided. You will be missed and I am enormously grateful that some of your more stellar performances are available on the Internet. Sometimes happenstance is a glorious thing!