Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao celebrated their 2008 wedding vows in an intimate ceremony with only their parents and close friends in attendance.
But the reigning Olympic pairs champions chose to share their official wedding ceremony with the world.
In the first on-ice extravaganza of its size ever held in China, Shen and Zhao re-confirmed their vows in front of a live audience of 17,000 while millions watched the event on national television.
“We met on the ice, we fell in love on the ice, so what better place to be formally married,” Zhao explained. “It was the logical place for us to celebrate our vows. In Chinese culture the public wedding ceremony is the most important.”
Zhao proposed to Shen at the end of their free program at the 2007 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, but the couple decided to postpone the ceremony until after the 2010 Games.
“Our parents were totally supportive of the plan and were very happy for us,” Shen said. “They told us that your wedding is a moment you remember for the rest of your life, so to have it on the ice was very special for us.”
The couple took a sabbatical from competitive skating following the 2007 Worlds, but the desire to stand on top of the Olympic podium lured the two-time Olympic bronze medalists back into the competitive arena.
They returned to competition last season with one golden goal in mind. The duo made history when they mined gold in Vancouver, the first Chinese team to ever claim the honor.
It was an emotional experience for Shen and Zhao and their coaching team. “I think our coach, Bin Yao, was more excited than anyone,” Zhao recalled. “When everyone was crying with excitement, coach Yao said he did his very best not to cry. But when everyone was gone and he was by himself, it was a different story.”
The couple immediately retired from competitive skating. They have been in high demand on the show circuit, captivating audiences all over the world. In October, they performed with the cast of “All That Skate LA,” an experience both said they really enjoyed.
Following the Games, Shen and Zhao turned their attention to a program they have been involved in for a number years in their hometown of Harbin. “They personally support a school of mentally challenged children, and they also teach the kids to figure skate,” said their manager, Sheng Li.
Shen and Zhao are also in the process of setting up a charitable foundation called “Angels on Ice” to raise money to sponsor and support up-and-coming figure skaters in their homeland.
They are on a personal mission to promote figure skating in the southern part of China. “The sport is very popular in the northern part of China, but it has never caught on in the south, so they will be working with the junior schools to try and get kids interested in skating,” Li said.
Shen and Zhao are also taking on greater coaching roles at their former training base in Beijing and will assist the Chinese Skating Association in the development of its skating programs.
Originally published in December 2010