Pang, Tong happy to be back in action after injury

Two-times world champs making season debut in Nice

Jian Tong (left) has been sampling the fine French wines since the team arrived in Nice.
Jian Tong (left) has been sampling the fine French wines since the team arrived in Nice. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(03/28/2012) - Qing Pang and Jian Tong have a special connection with Nice: Back in 2000, when the world championships were previously held in the city (and in the same venue), Pang and Tong were already here as competitors. They are one of only two entrants in Nice this week (Belgium's Kevin van der Perren is the other) to have been there 12 years ago.

Since their first trip to Nice, they have won numerous competitions, including two world gold medals (in 2006 and 2010, the Olympic years) and one Olympic silver medal (in 2010).

Pang and Tong have gained a unique reputation of kindness and openness throughout the years. They took the time to discuss their programs and hopes in an injury-marred season with

(Tong spoke in English without the help of an interpreter. He offered to speak for both of them, as Pang does not know English well enough. She nonetheless remained smiling at his side while he was talking. And obviously, even though they have postponed their plans of marriage for the time being, they are still very much in love with each other!) How do you feel, coming back to Nice after 12 years?

Tong: Indeed, this is our second world championships in Nice. It is very nice to be here again. The city is so beautiful! (He then takes a modest look.) What we hope is that we can have a better result than we had last time! (They finished 15th in 2000.) This competition is the last one of the season, but for us it is the first one. It is the first one we skate and also the first in importance for us. Have you been able to take advantage of being in the city already?

Tong: Oh, yes! We have been around the city and the area. We could also take advantage of the French cuisine and most important, wine! This is something that has changed in 12 years for us: In the former years, I used to drink beer, but now I have discovered good wine -- it's so fantastic! (He laughs.) Can you talk a bit about the current season, which has been so difficult?

Tong: We could not skate this year because of our injuries, so it is a rather strange feeling for us. Last July, we went to Canada to create both our programs with Lori Nichol. We were so happy, as we really love these programs. The only problem was that we needed to rest for four months after that. What about your programs?

Tong: We skate our short program to one of Chopin's nocturnes and our long program to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." Our free program is really demanding physically, especially for breathing. (He thinks a little, then smiles.) I do not know, maybe it's me -- when I look at Qing, she is always smiling throughout the program. But when I see myself on the pictures and videos, I see myself as exhausted and breathless! Still, I make efforts to be smiling more. (He laughs.) You always seem so happy when you skate.

Tong: We are happy when we skate. We love competing, and also we love to show it. Also, we are a real couple, you know. And Qing is always so beautiful. What would you like to achieve next?

Tong: We would like to develop our expression even more. We would like to be like real actors, and be able to really interpret the characters of our programs. That would be our goal.

Pang and Tong are scheduled to take the ice at 10:11 a.m. ET in Wednesday's short program. They will be the last to skate, but the audience of Nice may remember them after 12 years.

Sophie Desmergers contributed to this report.