Ice Network

Sui, Han strive to be greater after winning world title

Chinese pairs team eyes repeat performance at 2018 Winter Olympics
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Wenjing Sui and Cong Han may be the world pairs champions, but that doesn't mean the Chinese duo will slow down in their pursuit of future titles. -Getty Images

Three-time world junior champions and two-time world silver medalists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were finally able to capture their first world title Thursday night in Helsinki.

As they celebrated their remarkable achievement, the team talked to icenetwork about their gold medal-winning performance and the hard work it took to reach the top.

Icenetwork: Did you have a good night after winning the title?

Cong Han: No (laughing). I slept for two hours because I was too excited to sleep more! Also, I wanted to share the news with my family and friends, so I called them. The problem was that my roommate (ice dancer Xinyu Yu) was skating this morning and he needed to sleep, so I had to go to the washroom to make my calls without disturbing him.

Wenjing Sui: I slept one hour more than Cong, but not much. My roommate is Xiaoyu Yu (the other Chinese pairs skater competing at worlds), and she was also very excited (after she and Hao Zhang finished fourth), so we talked a lot. We were both very happy.

Icenetwork: You've won the silver medal twice, in 2015 and 2016, but now you've won the event. What does this mean to you?

Sui: Our dream was to win the world gold medal. When I was very young, the first day I took the ice, reaching the world championship event became my dream. I always kept this dream in my heart, and we worked really hard. We went step by step to the top. Maybe God saw how hard we tried and helped us, so we could make it happen. The Chinese association, doctors and physiotherapists gave us a lot of help. They made the dream come true.

Icenetwork: The precision with which you skate has been one of your trademarks. Your side-by-side spins and jumps are always in sync. How do you manage that to maintain this level of incredible consistency?

Sui: Practice. We also look at one another a lot as we skate.

Han: I've always rotated slower than she does. So, she is calling the change in the spin until the last call, which I do myself. As for the jumps, it's the same: We practice them a lot.

Sui: I can jump high sometimes. My power is good.

Icenetwork: In your free program, you enter into your last lift in a very original way, as Cong is in a spread eagle position and your skates are on his feet. Who devised this trick?

Han: Our coach did. Before this season, we entered straight into that lift. Our coach told us that we needed to find something more difficult in order to increase the level. He told us that if we could do such an entrance into the lift, it would be just amazing. So finally we dared to try it. Then we wanted to give up, as it was too difficult and we didn't have enough time to prepare. Eventually, we got it down enough to use it in our performances.

Icenetwork: A lot of time goes into perfecting each and every element.

Han: Yes. In figure skating, everything counts.

Sui: Our coach asks us to be our judges when we practice. When we finish an element, he sometimes asks us what mark we would give to it.

Han: We're quite harsh with ourselves, I must say.

Icenetwork: What kind of a direction would you like to see pairs skating go in the near future?

Han: I see many teams doing just pairs skating elements and nothing more. This is something I'd like to change in the future. I'd like to bring more beautiful programs, with more transitions, more feelings and more connection between the two skaters. I'd like that to even be an obligation.

I am convinced that every pairs skater can do many things similar to those of an ice dancer. Pairs skating is not just a sum of elements. I'd like us to challenge ourselves more into that direction. I want to be an ice dancer!

Icenetwork: Seriously?

Han: Yes! I told [Wenjing] the other day that after we finish pairs skating, we were going to be ice dancers. We don't have enough, but it's a far away dream.

Icenetwork: What does "more beautiful" mean for you?

Han: In the Chinese culture, beauty is always inside. It's not coming out. You need to be very strong inside.

Icenetwork: What do you think you still lack for that?

Han: I think there is still a long way to go. We have to learn, be more mature and gain experience in order to show beauty in a way where everyone can feel it.

Sui: We are all coming from a different cultural background, and we have a hard time understanding one another by the language. But body language is the same in every country. If you feel pain in your heart, or even a headache, everyone will feel it as well, because everyone can relate to human pains. If we can stress our feelings through body language, then everyone can enter into the mood of our programs.

Icenetwork: You had a very long break between last year's worlds and Helsinki. How did you live through that, with the big surgery you underwent to both your feet, Wenjing?

Sui: After the surgery, we both knew that we would have to work hard. It was so hard. I couldn't walk. I needed to learn from scratch, just like a little baby. I wouldn't be able to stand my life without skating.

I knew that I was strong, and I knew that I always wanted to be stronger. I knew that the more I would practice, the faster I would come back. So I did, for the love of skating. When we love this sport, training is not so hard.

I have a good team, and they give me a nice training plan. Then for Four Continents, we did twice as much as the others. Sometimes Cong couldn't keep up with me because he felt tired.

Han: During Wenjing's time in the hospital, I practiced alone every day. Sometimes I worked with little girls from other pairs, whom I "borrowed" to do the lifts, but they were heavier than Wenjing. It was a good practice. On the ice, I was just by myself watching the other pairs.

I missed my partner, and I wanted her to come back so badly. It was a very difficult time. Our coach let me do "Amazing on Ice," a show in Beijing. I did a solo number for the audience, performing the lift by myself and the twist by myself. At the end, I took her out on the ice to say hello to the audience. Many people cried.

Icenetwork: Did that operation change anything in your life?

Sui: Something has changed after my operation. I enjoy being on the ice even more. I realized how much I loved the tears and the applause and the yelling and the support from the audience. I feel happy every day. I want to enjoy skating every day.

Han: It changed our life. I think that now we can improve everything. We can face many difficult things. It showed us that we could build each one's confidence and build our relationship, whatever we were experiencing. Now I hope she can remain healthy.

Sui: Sharing a common goal gave us power, and this power pushed us to the top of the podium.

Han: We will have a new goal: We want to keep going and be on top of the podium next year at the Winter Olympics.

A competitive sport is always sacrificing. But figure skating is very beautiful. Besides competition, we also can perform, and we enjoy performing on the ice. We feel lucky because China will host the 2022 Olympics, so the people and our government give us lot of support. We want to be the best for ourselves and to be ready physically and mentally to deliver for our country.

Sui: We can do this because we love the sport. We are ready to sacrifice for the sport we love.