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Interview with Hongbo Zhao and Xue Shen

Competitive Highlights:
2007 Asian Winter Games
First Place
2007 World Championships
First Place
2007 Four Continents Championships
First Place
2007 Grand Prix Final
First Place
2006 Winter Olympics
Third Place
2006 NHK Trophy
First Place
2006 Cup of China
First Place
2005 Grand Prix Final
First Place
2004 World Championships
Second Place
2004 Trophee Eric Bompard
First Place
2004 Cup of China
First Place
2004 Grand Prix Final
First Place
2003 Four Continents Championships
First Place
2003 World Championships
First Place
2002 World Championships
First Place
2002 Winter Olympics
Third place
2002 Grand Prix Final
Second Place
2002 Chinese National Championships
First Place
2001 Four Continents Championships
Second Place
2001 World Championships
Third Place
2001 Grand Prix Final
Third Place
2001 Chinese National Championships
First Place
2000 World Championships
Second Place
2000 Grand Prix Final
First Place
1999 World Championships
Second Place
1999 Chinese National Championships
First Place
1998 Olympic Winter Games
Fifth Place
1998 Chinese National Championships
First Place
1997 Chinese National Championships
First Place
1996 Chinese National Championships
First Place
1994 Chinese National Championships
First Place
1993 Chinese National Championships
First Place
Since pairing up in 1992, Hongbo Zhao and Xue Shen have become one of the most successful figure skating teams in the world. Together, they have won dozens of medals, including awards from the last two Winter Olympics and first place gold from the last World Championships. They even made history by becoming the first Chinese pair to win a medal at the Olympics for figure skating.

In addition to their extradinary talents, Zhao and Shen have also exhibited great determination throughout their career. During the 2003 World Championships, Shen suffered a foot injury in practice. But somehow, she was still able to compete to take the gold. And in 2005, Zhao suffered a torn Achilles tendon, a potentially career-ending injury. But through sheer determination and diligence, he was able to recover in time for the 2006 Olympics to take the bronze medal.

Zhao and Shen credit much of their success to their coach, Bin Yao. Yao started his career as a skater himself, but he retired in September 1984 and became a coach for the Harbin figure skating team. Since then, he has almost single-handedly turned China into a pair skating world power. Although China had not been traditionally strong in pairs figure skating, Yao has brought multiple Chinese teams in the sport to Olympic glory, including Zhao and Shen.

In addition to their technical skills, these fantastic athletes have demonstrated their ability to win over fans. During the 2004 World Championships, not only did their Nutcracker Suite routine earn them the longest and loudest standing ovation of the week, but also chants of "Six" from the crowd, signifying that they deserved a perfect score. This is a rare occurrence in figure skating. Zhao and Shen are very in touch with their friends and fans from around the world. They have their own website and blog at and respectively.

Despite being at the peak of their careers, Zhao and Shen recently announced their plans to retire. In May 2007, Zhao and Shen got married in China. Then in July, they opened a school at Shenzhen, China, where they will train coaches to teach other skaters. They are still sharing their talents with the rest of the world at various venues, but they plan on eventually making a full-time commitment to coaching.

Currently, they are performing across the U.S. for the first time on the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour. Despite their busy schedules, they were kind enough to take a moment to conduct an interview with AsianLoop.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I know you are just starting your Stars on Ice tour. The environment and mindset for tours like this must be very different from being in championship competitions. Which do you prefer?
A: This is the first time for us to take part in the Star on Ice tour in US. We like it because this is just performance but not competition. You could enjoy it more as there is no need for us to try to get a good ranking.
Q: Since you started competing in championship competitions in 1995, your success has continuously climbed to the point where you have now won dozens of first place titles. What do you attribute to the rise in your success?
A: To hold on and not afraid of losing the competitions. Just enjoy the procedure and do not think of the result too much. This is what we value the most.
Q: China has never been very strong in the sport of figure skating. You played a major role in changing that. Was that a goal you had in mind?
A: To change China's position in the international figure skating world is one thing we wanted to achieve for our country. But we also love and enjoy ice skating which is the most important thing of all.
Q: How does it feel, knowing you have paved the way for other aspiring Chinese figure skaters?
A: We want to continue to be the role modal. China is such a big country, you can only be recognized once you have achieved outstanding results.
Q: Do you take part in the choreography of your own programs?
A: Of course we are involved.
Q: Which program would each of you say you are most proud of and why?
A: We like the program we did at Washington in 2003. Through that program we made the world to recognize that Chinese also could touch the world. The program we did in 2006 Winter Olympic Games was also a dream impossible for us to realize because Hongbo's Achilles tendon ruptured. However, we did it. Through out the 2007 season we did not have any opponent. We won the 6 major events and it was a perfect ending.
Q: I see that you have a blog that you update regularly. You must be very in touch with your fans. Do they play a role in inspiring you to do well?
A: We have great friendship with our fans. When we were injured, every one of them send us best wishes and hoping we could get back on the ice soon. The friendship between us and the fans are pure. They have actually encouraged and motivated us.
Q: Do you find a difference in what judges and fans prefer to see in your programs? Are there techniques that you incorporate that are more for the fans?
A: In competitions, you really have to present your best technical performances to the judges. Now we present all our best techniques and performance to the audience.
Q: Congratulations on your marriage last year. Would you say your personal relationship with each other off the ice has helped with your success on the ice?
A: Thanks. Yes, there is help. We feel really close. So we are more natural in performing.
Q: Both of you have suffered serious injuries in your careers. Shen, you suffered a foot injury in 2003, but were miraculously able to perform later in the week. And Zhou, you tore your Achilles tendon in 2005, which would be a career-ending injury for many skaters. Yet you recovered in time for the 2006 Olympics and took the bronze. In both cases, you actually came back stronger than before! How were you able to overcome such odds?
A: We have strong believes in ourselves that no other people have. We are really confident.
Q: In the 2006-2007 season, you have been unstoppable. You have taken first place in the major competitions you have performed in, including the World Championships. But the word is that you are retiring. Why now?
A: We want to take some rest.
Q: Is there a lot of pressure from your supporters and fans to keep competing?
A: 90% of friends wish us could return.
Q: You have had an illustrious career. There must have been many special moments, like being the first Chinese pair to win an Olympic medal in figure skating, or the reactions you drew from he crowd in both the 2003 and 2004 World Championships. What would you say is the best moment for each of you?
A: Year 2004 in Beijing at the final game of China Grand Prix, it was the first time that the Chinese audience have actually filled up a stadium of 16,000 seats. From then on, we realized we have made Chinese to like figure skating.
Q: I heard you opened a school in Shenzhen to train skating coaches. It's an interesting choice to train coaches, rather than directly training skaters. Why did you choose to go that way?
A: Our coaches are all recently retired from professional teams. They do not have enough experience to be a qualified coach. So we use our training experience through out the years to train these coaches. Then they would be able to train students. Sometimes we give lessons to the students as well but our time is limited.
Q: Are there many methods from your own coach, Yao Bin, that you want to pass on to other coaches?
A: What we have got now are all from Yao Bin. We think his training ideas are the best in China. We have responsibilities to carry it on.
Q: If you do retire, what future plans do you have, besides running the school?
A: We do not have other plans right now.
Q: Is there any chance we might see you in the 2010 Winter Olympics?
A: Can not make the decision now. Ha ha (laughs)
At press time, the Smucker's Stars on Ice tour is coming to the east coast in Long Island, Newark, Providence, and Philadlphia. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit
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