At the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 in Boston (USA), we sat down with Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN). The 2016 World Pair Silver medalists shared some thoughts on everything skating and much more.
Q=interviewer (Wei Xiong for ISU) S=Wenjing Sui H=Cong Han
Q: First question, when and why did you start skating?
S: When I was young, my grandmother was running a car wash; a very senior coach was living upstairs. His name was Junxiang Wang. Initially I knew nothing about him; in fact, I was very curious about why he didn’t need to go to work every day, why he was always wandering around, and what he did for a living. Later I learned he was a figure skating coach, and that’s how I began doing it. From then, I just passed the point of no return.
H: I remember it was when I was in kindergarten. One day, some coaches came to my kindergarten to choose future students. They asked us if they would like to do some roller skating, and brought those who answered yes to skate. On the last day, we changed our roller skate boots to figure skate boots and went to try on the ice. When the test was over, the coaches did some brief summary and then asked us if we would like to do figure skating. I was too young to know what was going to happen next, and I said yes, then I started to enter the world of figure skating.
Q: So you also felt like you passed the point of no return?
H: Not exactly, but when I was young, I was indeed working quite hard, and training was so tough that I thought about quitting skating at times. But people around me would also encourage me and told me not to give up, and things went on.
Q: When did you decide to become an athlete and dedicate yourself io figure skating?
S: I liked skating from the beginning. At that time my mom didn’t want me to skate. When I caught a cold or got a fever, she would simply say “just stop skating!” I was doing pretty well in study, so she didn’t want me to be an athlete, but would want me to do as ordinary students do. However, she couldn’t stop me.
At that time, my rink was a two hour walk from my home, almost one hour by car. One day during winter vacation, I didn’t do my homework. I thought I could do it the next day since it was vacation anyway, but my mom didn’t approve and came up with an idea. She told me to walk there if I still wanted to skate. It was such a cold winter day! But I walked there anyway. It took me more than two hours, and when I arrived, the training session was already finished. My mom said, “Alright, you can’t skate now, let’s go back.” We went home by car, but she said “no sitting, just stand!” But I didn’t say no, and I continued to skate the next day. Since then my mom knew that she couldn’t stop me.
Q: She realized that you were taking it really seriously.
S: Yes. I enjoyed skating all the way, gradually and naturally, I became an athlete.
Q: Han, how about you?
H: When I was young, there was a time that I got tired of figure skating. One day something went wrong with my Achilles tendon, and I was told that I might not be able to skate anymore. I felt very happy that day, because I thought I could finally get away from skating. At that time, training was really, very tough. Every day I must run 12 laps, 400 meters per lap. No stopping or walking was allowed, but I must keep running, day after day. (Jin: I used to run 30 laps.) After the injury I stopped training, but my coach asked me to return. I was very reluctant, and I cried after I went back.
I didn’t know about the fun of figure skating; every day was tough and tedious. I was training much harder than anyone else, as time went by, I started to deliver some results in competitions. Every time I nailed an element, I could feel the joy of achieving something from knowing nothing about pairs skating, and then I started to like it. But when I felt what I had done was not completely being recognized, or when I felt the gap (compared to top pairs), I considered that it indicated room for improvement, then I would train harder to improve. But when I trained too hard, I started to think training was tough and tedious again. So I went back and forth between feeling happy and bored.
Then it came to the year of 2009, we started to compete at junior level competitions. That season we won the title, we became the No.1 in international competition, which I never thought of. I was the last skater to join our national team, and I had been competing against those top skaters for many years, and thought of quitting for many times. But when I could really see my growth, I gradually started to like it.
Q: You finally started to like it in the year you became the junior world champions?
H: Yes, because I felt the efforts that I spent finally paid off. What’s more, I think the moment I realized I really like figure skating, was after Sochi Olympics (which Sui and Han were not selected to represent China). It was a huge shock to me, but it also made me understand what I was doing, made me realize that figure skating is the sport of my life; I must work hard, and I must take it seriously, or else all what I had experienced would mean nothing. I don’t need to waste any time on something I don’t love. Now I am 100% concentrating on figure skating, which has become my real love. I will do everything I can and try to be the best.
Q: Question to both. What was your first impression towards each other when you first met and teamed up?
S: Scary and mean, that’s all.
Q: In what way was he scary and mean?
S: Don’t you think he is still mean to me now?
Q: But now it seems you are the one who’s being sarcastic and giving him a hard time?
S: Now I am, but in the past I didn’t dare to say such things at all. Now he is always nitpicking me, how can I not be sarcastic to him?
Q: Han, is it true? Were you mean to her?
H: I was very mean.
Q: Why would you do that to a little girl?
H: Because I was a little boy too. I didn’t intend to be mean to a little girl, but I wanted to improve and achieve better result as soon as possible. I just changed my partner, but I eagerly wanted to catch up with all the competitors in front. I just wanted to be the best, but I didn’t realize the way I wanted to be the best was not correct. Our coach pointed out my problem, but I couldn’t correct it. It took me time to grow and be matured enough to see many of my shortcomings.
Q: After you two teamed up, what was the moment that makes you feel you can achieve good results a s a pair?
S: From the moment I decided to be an athlete and start my competitive career, I believed I would definitely try my best to make it happen.
H: I think it was when we first competed in a national event as a pair; it was the qualification competition of national winter games. Our coach Bo Luan was pregnant at that time, so we were training in Mudanjiang (far from home rink). Nobody thought we could do well, everyone thought we were just there to show up and go home. Everyone said the same thing to us because we were so young. But in my heart I didn’t agree at all. I was thinking “why? I can do pairs elements well too. Although I was not consistent, why would everyone believe I couldn’t get good results in that competition?” So I decided to train even harder, and later we proved them wrong, we were qualified for national games. After this event I believed what we were doing was right, everything would be alright on our way.
S: I purely like figure skating. The love is so pure that whatever happens, I like it all the same. I also hope that what figure skating brings me is happiness, and I don’t want to think too much and stir this purity. For him, he wants to achieve something via figure skating; he works hard and hopes it pays off. For me, I like the happiness that figure skating brings me; I am happy as long as I can skate, and I work hard because of this happiness.
Q: Which element do you like the most in pairs skating?
S: I like performing. Let’s not do any element, but just perform. Let’s change the rule! (Note: this relates to Han’s comments at press conference after the free skate that he wishes current rule could change a bit to allow skaters to do less elements and spend more effort on performing.)
H: There is no element that I particularly like. I want to challenge some new difficult elements, but just to challenge. I don’t plan to do in competitions, but just want to improve myself by doing new things. If I must say what I like, I like the essence of ice skating the most.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not training?
S: I like to laugh.
Q: What makes you laugh?
S: Anything can make me laugh, as long as he doesn’t show me the mean face.
Q: But he is showing a mean face right now.
S: I don’t see it. I pretend I don’t see him.
Q: How about you, Han? What do you like to do when you’re free?
H: I am learning a lot of things recently. I was focusing on figure skating last year and the year before, and spent a lot of time figuring out what I learned from my mistakes and failures and how I grew. Now the things are done and I have some spare time, so I started to learn basic Korean. Recently I am playing Ukulele, I even obtained a certificate of level 5 in the grading test. From May I will start to take some new classes, and then I will participate in some promotional campaigns of figure skating.
Q: What kind of campaigns?
H: I’ll keep it as a secret for now.
Q: Are you learning Korean for the Olympics in Pyeongchang two years from now?
H: Partially yes. Another reason is that I want to be able to speak some languages. Meanwhile, I am also studying IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
Q: I think you have made really huge progress in English. Are you regularly spending some time on it?
H: My vocabulary is quite limited, so I am mainly spending my time memorizing new words. But my progress is very slow; I can only memorize a bit more than 10 words a week, so my vocabulary is still pretty small.
Q: Which part of your body do you like the most?
H: You mean which part of Sui’s body do I like the most?
S: Must be the face!
Q: I was asking which part of your body.
H: You didn’t understand what I was trying to say.
Q: Okay, then let me ask this: which part of your partner’s body do you like the most?
S: Can I say his hair?
H: Must be my butt, no? My butt is very sexy.
Q: You do know that I need to publish this interview, right?
H: No problem, because I really have a sexy butt.
Q: How about you, Sui? Which part of your body do you like the most?
Q: You don’t need to follow what he answered.
S: Well then, I like every part of my body. Confident!
Q: Final question, what do you want to say to figure skating fans via this new social media platform of ISU?
S: I hope that everyone could join us and start figure skating, and let’s interact more. Thank you.
H: I basically agree.