You Mean They Know How to Skate in China?

Welcome to the Shen and Zhao Madness Center!

FOURTH, ladies and gentlemen. Can we say it? FOURTH! Those are the results in from the World Championships in Minneapolis. FOURTH! Finally! They're being recognized!


Oh, you know who I'm talking about. Them. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.

Ah yes. Now the rest of the world is catching on.

The rest of my rant stands. Excellence needs no updates. Thank you, guys. Oh, this is wonderful.

Gorgeous. The best of the pack in Nagano.

Yes, guys, it is possible to do elegant costumes. Skate in them well. And even look good in the damn kiss-and-cry.

Most costumes won't take more than two or three minutes of being stared at. These do. Go, guys!

Has anybody in the pairs competition got more elegant spins? Better lifts? And more elegant setdowns from those lifts?

Nope. They're the standard to catch up with.

Elegance, connected lines, and legato. They are the only pair in recent years I'd use the word "legato" about. Not since the G&G days.

Just buy the best blades and keep going. You're fine. At long last elegance. What more can I say? Hit the rewind, boys. Let's see that again!

Five Minutes To Ice Time

Oh well, guys, time to go let the Westerners have it again.

Boots in place? Blades locked on? You ready with the skate guards? Good. Make sure everything is in place.

Check your partner. Does he look okay? Does she look okay? Any last things you guys need to get out of your system before you hit the ice? You guys always perform better when you've gotten everything out. Good.

Two minutes. Are you together? Can you still knock out those side-by-side leg lifts that have everyone else hurting?


One minute. One last hug. You guys always do well with that. You are friends on and off the ice.

"Ladies and gentlemen, from China, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo!"

Hmmmmm....Let's Talk about Lifts

Lifts are great. Lifts are part of pairs skating. And lift technique has been much neglected lately.

Did they, like, bring Shen and Zhao's coaches out of a time capsule? If so, got any spare keys?

Now let's see how it was really done.

Notice, first, the flow of this pair as they come in the last five feet to a lift takeoff. (I call it that for lack of a better word.) Everything is even. They are skating together. They are in almost (in some places) perfect parallel. You have to be, because up on top of that lift you will be thinking as one. Almost more than in any other place in a pairs performance. One step at a time, kids. That's what'll get you to the finish line first. Bet their coaches have been preaching the tortoise and the hare until they're blue in the face.

Then. He reaches out an arm and grasps her around the waist. She has obviously checked this position out and says that she likes it, and that she likes being lifted there. You have about a three to four-inch bit of maneuvering room on any lift. They have worked together to find the spot that works with his muscular strengths and with her preferences and balance. Not many pairs are doing this. It's a matter of talking back and forth, maybe the coach easing it a little, and settling on the correct position. For both of them. I love this!

Then. He hoists her into the air. Full extension from the time he can unflex his elbows. I love this! Project her as high into the air as you possibly can in order to maximize the impact on the judges. Some of those guys don't know better than to start judging lift position when the kids are only halfway there. Got that problem fixed. Yes we do. Yes we do indeed. Besides, it looks good. Good balletic position.

Then. The finale. She's popped on top of that hand and she is spinning. Notice she almost has her own rotation. Almost -- she'd kill him if she did. He couldn't stand it, not even with those muscles. (Kid could have been a quad-slinging baby on the singles scene if they hadn't matched him up with her. Oh well. Sometimes you sacrifice.) That is the way good pairs skaters are. They are constantly using their own brains and making sure they mesh. The latter is the hard part. The part you give gold medals for.

I will hush. Oh yes. Let's just run the tape, boys. God, this is sweet!

Next time we'll talk about those wonderful side-by-side jumps of theirs. There are some tricks to getting it to look that good. Dare I say even the Soviets aren't doing some of this stuff?

Total ballet. Total trust. Total positioning.

I'm about to cry.

Go, guys, go!