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China's Shen, Zhao look for elusive Olympic gold

Three-time world champs coming back to the GP Series for first time since 2006-07

Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao were last seen in competition winning the 2007 world title and getting engaged on the ice in the process.
Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao were last seen in competition winning the 2007 world title and getting engaged on the ice in the process. (Getty Images)

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By Todd Hinckley
(05/30/2009) - China's Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao left competitive figure skating on a high note. The won their third world title in Tokyo in 2007, and, on top of that, Zhao got down on one knee at the end of their free skate to propose to his partner. Shen joined him on his knee and said, "Yes."

The couple retired from competition after that event, but they never ruled out a potential return.

About a year and a half ago, Zhao said, "We take up exhibitions rather than training in national team, but it does not mean we are ebbing away. We will surely resume systematic training with the national team before the 2010 Winter Olympics."

The famous Chinese coach, Bin Yao, figured their return would come sooner than this. He told Xinhua, a Chinese news agency, in January 2008 that he expected the pair to return to the Chinese national team shortly.

The comeback did not happen as quickly as Yao expected, but it is now at hand.

The pair won Olympic bronze medals in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006. With three world championships, five Grand Prix Final victories and three Four Continents gold medals, the Olympic gold is the only thing missing from their resumé. They are coming back to remedy that.

The couple will make their 2009 Grand Prix debut at the Cup of China, and they will also appear at Skate America.