Skating fans around the world were pleasantly surprised when China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong announced they were not retiring from competitive skating after an unexpected silver-medal finish at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Pang and Tong proved there is no such thing as an impossible dream in Vancouver. Standing in fourth place following the short program, the duo two went out and arguably delivered the best performance of their career, winning the free skating portion of the competition. It was a magical moment.
After placing fourth in 2006, narrowly missing the podium, the victory was even sweeter. “Winning an Olympic medal, no matter which color, was always our dream,” Tong said.
A few weeks later, they claimed their second World title in Torino, Italy.
“Last season was special and different for us,” Tong said. “Some teams retired or decided to take a rest, but we decided to continue. I think our biggest motivation is our love of skating. For a long time, winning an Olympic medal was the major motivation for us, but then the joy of performing became more and more important to us.”
Pang and Tong enjoyed a successful season, capturing gold at both their Grand Prix assignments and the Asian Winter Games title.
They placed second at the Grand Prix Final behind Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy last December. “The fact that the Grand Prix Final was held in Beijing played a big role in our decision to compete this season,” Tong said.
In February, the duo claimed its fifth Four Continents title in Taipei City.
They captured bronze at Worlds in Moscow, their fifth medal in 13th consecutive appearances at the global competition. Leading after an exquisite short program to “Pearl Fishers,” they slipped to third in the free skate when Tong struggled with the solo jumps. “Maybe I was too nervous and I wanted it too much,” he admitted.
Pang and Tong, who are both 31, have been skating together for 18 years. When one makes a mistake in competition, the other is supportive. Off the ice they are a couple, something they only made that public this year. “We plan to get engaged,” Tong said. “Obviously we get along very well.”
Pang added: “We actually used to quarrel a lot, but now we quarrel rarely.”
The two-time World champions feel that they are not done yet. “This is a difficult question for us,” Tong said. “Before, we needed to train about four hours a day to keep up our levels, but now, after injuries and illness, especially a knee injury on my part, we need to train six to seven hours a day to be in top shape.
“We still love what we do and it will be hard to say goodbye to skating. We hope that we still can enjoy competing and don’t become negative. We want to enjoy the sport as long as possible. Maybe we will take a rest, but we would like to compete in our fourth Olympic Games in 2014, if it is possible.”
Although the couple was hesitant to talk about definitive plans for the upcoming season, it seems likely that they will take some time off to perform in shows. Pang and Tong are scheduled to perform in shows in China, Korea and Japan this summer.
Overall they were satisfied with how the 2010-11 season went. “It is a shame that at the most important competition of the season (the World Championships), we were unable to perform our best, but I think that overall we were able to improve our performance level,“ Tong said adding that this improvement might be the result of being in love. “I’m planning to propose to Pang Qing very soon.“
Both are looking ahead to the future after their competitive career comes to an end. “Maybe we’ll go back to university and study foreign languages, or maybe we’ll try to put a skating tour together in China,” Tong said. “I can see myself coaching.”
The duo have now become well-known in China. “Before people almost never recognized us on the street, but now more and more do,” Pang said. “It is quite nice, as it helps to make skating a more prominent sport in China. We really hope we can participate in making skating more popular.”
Originally published in August 2011