Hochstein proposes to Zhang in NYC's Central ParkU.S. pewter medalist plans beautiful Cherry Hill picnic; Onlookers cheer
It's been a great week for Grant Hochstein. On Friday, the U.S. pewter medalist skated a clean free skate at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships in Boston, finishing to a raucous standing ovation. He placed 10th overall in the men's competition.
On Tuesday, Hochstein proposed to his girlfriend of two years, three-time U.S. medalist and world junior champion Caroline Zhang. She said yes.
"For me, the notion of not being able to live without her kind of hit me a year ago, when she went into surgery," Hochstein said. "It was a pretty intensive surgery, and things can always go wrong. I realized I could live without skating, I could live without a lot of things -- but I couldn't live without her."
Zhang had hip surgery a year ago, but she says she has recovered and is skating again. She is planning to compete next season.
Hochstein went the traditional route and started by asking Zhang's father for permission to marry his daughter.
"The most stressful part for me was asking her dad," he said. "He was like, 'I'll consider your request,' and then he didn't say anything for a month and a half."
After the world championships concluded, Hochstein and Zhang took a trip to New York City. Apparently, Zhang teases Hochstein that he isn't good at making plans, so he made a careful, elaborate itinerary for the trip. To select the most auspicious time to propose, Hochstein consulted Michelle Kwan's mother, Estella.
"It was very thought out because, according to the Chinese calendar, you have to match your birthdays, and the day we were leaving, and the day we got to New York, Estella gave me a three-hour window on Monday," Hochstein said.
Tuesday's timetable included afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel.
"I'm the kind of person who will just wear sweatpants and skating clothes everywhere," Zhang said. "So, he tricked me by taking me to afternoon tea."
After tea, the couple took a rickshaw bike ride through Central Park, and then visited Bethesda Fountain for a picture (this has been a tradition for them). Then they took a walk, despite the chilly temperatures.
"I was wearing a sundress and stilettos," Zhang said. "He was like, 'It looks warmer up there.' We went up the hill, and there was a picnic up there."
Hochstein had arranged for a picnic to be spread out on Cherry Hill, where the cherry trees were starting to bloom.
"We don't love champagne, but there's a white wine that we asked for," he said. "The picnic was on real china with real silverware; it was beautiful. And then I gave the worst speech possible. I had planned the whole trip. The only thing I hadn't planned was the speech! I think I started with, 'I'm going to be bad at this,' and then I started to cry. It was a welling up of pride and emotion."
Hochstein managed to hit the important points, including "I love you" and "Will you marry me?" and Zhang said "yes." The picnic package included a photographer, and given that it was in Central Park, the moment attracted some spectators.
"I didn't realize that there would be people watching," Hochstein said. "I got up and everyone started cheering."
The newly affianced couple plan to wait until after the 2018 U.S. Championships for the wedding.
"We're going to wait a little while and focus on skating," Hochstein said. "There's a lot of stuff happening in the next couple of years. For me, the Olympic team is definitely a goal."
Both skaters train with Peter Oppegard and Karen Kwan-Oppegard in Los Angeles.
"I'm just focusing on getting back this season and seeing where I am," Zhang said.
"I think she's going to kick some butt this year. She's looking pretty good!" Hochstein added.