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February 17, 2010

Shen and Zhao Win Gold, Finally

Winter Olympics 2010

The pairs team of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won China's first gold medal for figure skating on Monday night. I was happy to see them win, for a variety of reasons. It's always nice to see a new country break into a sport previously dominated by another. And Shen and Zhao themselves have been around for a long time: they won the bronze in the past two Olympics (and came in fifth the time before that), so it was nice to see them finally win gold.

To expand a bit on my comment at Ta-Nehisi's place, I think it's really interesting that the solo skating events are all about the kids (more so in women's than men's), but in pairs and ice dancing, there's definitely some advantage to age. The length of the partnership really matters: Shen and Zhao have been skating together since they were 14 and 19. That's longer than Caydee Denney, one of the American pairs skaters, has been alive. This gives them a synchronization and knowledge of each others' bodies that I don't think you can really rush. Sure, some teams just naturally have better chemistry than others, and I'm sure there are plenty of tricks to help the skaters learn to skate together. But can all the chemistry and tricks in the world make up the difference between a couple who has done this every day for eighteen years and one who just met three years ago?

Another issue: Shen and Zhao are married (although they got married after skating together for fifteen years). From the commentary Monday night, it seems that virtually all the other teams have some sort of drama: they're dating people from rival teams, they used to date but broke up, they hate each other for unspecified reasons. I kept thinking that it was weird that the coaches didn't try to do something about this, but what could they do, really? These teams generally start out as adolescents who train together for hours a day, often with highly sexualized routines. Odds are, some romantic drama will ensue. I guess the brother/sister teams manage to avoid this, but they open up a host of other issues with sibling rivalry, etc. Plus, all those romantic routines are downright creepy then.

But anyway. Yay for Shen and Zhao! Did you miss them? NBC doesn't seem to allow embedding of their videos, but here's their short program and their long program.

Posted by Kat at February 17, 2010 05:00 PM
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