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Shen/Zhao expected to return to China's figure skating
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China's figure skating head coach Yao Bin on Wednesday expected an early comeback of pairs skating triple world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.


Yao, nicknamed "Godfather of Chinese Figure Skating" by home fans, told Xinhua the pair were busy attending a series of tour exhibitions in recent days, away from systematic training.


He anticipated them to return to the national team and start training at an early date.


Shen and Zhao, the two-time Olympic bronze medalists, gave up the national team training in March last year after winning pairs at the World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo. Although staying away from the national team, they never give up their long-cherished goal for an Olympic gold.


"We take up exhibitions rather than training in national team, but it does not mean we are ebbing away," said 34-year-old Zhao in Harbin recently. "We will surely resume systematic training with the national team before the 2010 Winter Olympics," he said, adding an Olympic gold medal is what they want most.


Yao suggested the figure skating aces to return to the national team training before the end of this year, in a bid to take up regular training and well prepare for the gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics.


The pair, who have teamed up for 15 years at world-level competition, is a golden match in China. Besides their great achievements in figure skating, their love story is well-known to the Chinese households.


After clinching their third world title in Tokyo in March last year, Zhao made an unexpected proposal to Shen in the pairs' final.


Zhao knelt on one knee, holding Shen's hands to make the proposal when they finished their free skate routine in the final amid thunderous applause of the spectators. A few seconds later, a surprised Shen lowered to her knees too.


The aces planned to get married after the Beijing Olympic Games, vowing to devote their energy to the Beijing Games. "We have received so many suggestions on where my wedding should be held," said a smiling Zhao.


Recently the duo set up a skating club in Shenzhen, a southern city of China, to promote ice sports in a hot area while training professional figure skaters.


Yao appreciated the couple's active efforts and was willing to help their new career.


(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2008)

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