Figure Skating: I’m More Suited for the Olympics – Chapter 13 Lighting the Ice

Fate is like a roller coaster, with ups and downs that no one could predict. Just when you think you’re going up, whoosh, the rickety car takes a sudden dive downward.

The fate of Chinese men’s figure skating was no different. Just when everyone thought they were about to rise, the next moment, they plummeted to the lowest point. The leader of the youth team retired due to injuries, and the leader of the senior team also fell.

In figure skating, there’s a saying that getting high scores in performances is difficult, but once you climb up, it’s not easy to fall. Previously, the Chinese men’s team struggled to rise, partly due to the judges at international events disfavoring their performances.

After Shen Liu’s breakout in Vancouver, his performance scores suddenly rose to the top. With his quadruple jumps, as long as he continued to skate well, a rise in world rankings was almost certain.

But fate took an unexpected turn. The only one capable of executing a quadruple jump in China, Shen Liu, ultimately fell during a triple jump, breaking his Achilles tendon and had to withdraw from the competition.

Zhang Jue didn’t know the specifics of Shen Liu’s injury. In his memory, Shen Liu was still competing on the international stage for two years.

As for the incident at the 2010 World Championships in his memory, it also happened.

In figure skating competitions, six skaters form a group, and the strongest of these six appear in the final group. In the 2010 World Championships men’s singles final group, during the six-minute warm-up, Russia’s top skater, Vasily, collided with an American skater on the ice.

People once thought it was Vasily’s dissatisfaction with the American skater winning the gold medal at the Olympics, and in the end Vasily was forced to retire due to public opinion.

Since Shen Liu’s rise in the Olympics, from the Olympics to the current World Championships, his short program consistently ranked in the top five so it was normal for him to enter the final group during the free skate. However, Zhang Jue didn’t expect Shen Liu to be injured in the last six-minute warm-up.

The Achilles tendon was the athlete’s vulnerable point, without a healthy Achilles tendon, no matter how well the other muscles ware trained, the athlete cannot exert full force. Even with surgery for repair, Shen Liu could no longer attempt quadruple jumps.

Perhaps, this was destiny.

Sun Qian sighed, doing so specifically in the quiet stairwell to avoid disturbing Shen Liu’s mood if someone saw him and started gossiping. Even though he was the godfather of pair skating, as the head coach, every athlete who brought glory to Chinese figure skating on the international stage was his cherished one.

He had been single-handedly supporting his discipline Shen Liu for many years, and Sun Qian watched him mature from youth to now.. he felt a pang of heartache.

Sun Qian thought: “Shen Liu’s luck is really not good.”

On the other hand, Shen Liu, the one everyone worried about, remained surprisingly calm.

When Vasily entered the hospital room, he saw the handsome Asian man reading a book. Subconsciously, he asked: “What book is this?”

Shen Liu looked up, smiled friendly at the Russian skater, and replied: “It’s in Spanish. I’m a graduate student in this field, and recently, my professor asked me to start preparing my thesis.”

Athletes who practice figure skating usually come from well-off families. Since their parents were willing to invest in their children’s skating, they ware also willing to send them to various tutoring classes. Shen Liu, who passed the college entrance examination, went to a foreign language university, making him a member of the group of athlete scholars.

Vasily nodded and lowered his head.

“I’m sorry, you got injured because of me.”

The figure skating arena was not as clean as people think. It’s not just a problem of judges favoring European and American athletes when scoring, some athletes ware not good people either.

Before the official competition begins, athletes have six minutes of practice time to familiarize themselves with the venue for the last time and adjust their pre-competition conditions. Vasily was preparing to try a quadruple jump and began gliding when he noticed other skaters on his jump path. So, he had to dodge.

He encountered similar disturbances several times during the trial jumps until the last time when he had to avoid Shen Liu’s take-off path.

That was the reason for Shen Liu’s injury. To avoid Vasily, he used an incorrect force application during take-off, stumbled upon landing, and had a regrettable outcome.

Vasily felt extremely guilty, but Shen Liu, in a tolerant tone, said: “It’s okay, it’s not your fault. You are also a victim.”

Everyone was on the ice at that time, and Shen Liu knew the difficulties Vasily faced. But when he said this, Vasily couldn’t lift his head even more.

This blond and blue-eyed handsome young man felt his breathing becoming heavier. Shen Liu noticed that the corners of his eyes were turning red, but he stubbornly refused to let tears fall and kept saying “sorry.”

Feeling helpless, Shen Liu silently tore off a few pieces of tissue and handed them over. Vasily took them, wiped his tears, and pressed the tissues against his high nose, letting out a loud sound.

Shen Liu judged that this Russian probably had rhinitis.

After calming down, Vasily felt somewhat awkward. Sitting on the bed, he asked Shen Liu: “What are your plans for the future? Continue studying, or do something else?”

Many figure skaters perform in commercial shows after retiring, earning a living by presenting programs on ice. However, given the condition of Shen Liu’s foot, it was impossible for him to return to the ice. Besides, he seemed to be good at studying so Vasily thought he might become a translator.

Looking at his injured foot, Shen Liu contemplated for a moment.

“Vasily, I have always dreamed of bringing more glory to my country on the international stage. Now that my competitive career has ended, it doesn’t mean my dreams will stop. There is still hope for the rise of Chinese men’s singles.”

“I will become a coach and bet my dreams on that hope!”

Thinking of that petite figure jumping lightly on the ice with raised hands, Shen Liu’s eyes showed a firm determination.

“It won’t take many years. You will see me on the coaching seat at international competitions.”

After learning about Shen Liu’s decision, despite others’ surprise, Sun Qian firmly supported him. With the support of the godfather of Chinese figure skating, the procedures were quickly arranged, and Shen Liu received the appointment to coach at the H Province team.

When his injuries healed, he boarded the plane home.

What athletes want to do most after retiring is probably to indulge in eating and drinking, and then be a couch potato at home for a while. After all, after being disciplined for so many years, this was where the athlete’s retirement and weight gain theory come from.

Shen Liu was relatively disciplined. As the first thing he did after getting off the plane was to rush to the training hall of the provincial team.

For many athletes, they start training from a young age, progressing from the city team to the provincial team, and then stepping up to the national team, competing for their country internationally.

Therefore, the provincial team of H Province was also Shen Liu home. He has deep feelings for this place, but he actually has only one purpose for coming back.

After entering the provincial team, Song Cheng came to greet him personally: “It’s been a hard journey. Since you told me you were coming, I drove directly to pick you up.”

Shen Liu dragged his suitcase, walking slowly with a crutch in one hand, politely saying: “How can I let the leader come to pick me up? Where are Senior Zhang and little Jue?”

A trace of understanding appeared in Song Cheng’s eyes: “They are practicing jumps on the ground, in the usual place. If you’re in a hurry, you can go ahead.”

Seeing the young man hastily heading to the training hall, slightly unsteady on his feet, Song Cheng shook his head.

Returning with crutches still in hand, this young man was too anxious, but as an ice skater with dream on rise, Song Cheng could understand Shen Liu’s feelings.

They all wanted to change China’s weak position in international figure skating competitions.

It was Saturday. Under the guidance of their chief coach Zhang Junbao, Zhang Jue jumped onto a 40 cm high jump box, then lightly tapped with his right foot, rotating in the air before landing.

This was a 3F off-ice jump training.

Zhang Junbao sternly reprimanded: “I’ve said that the takeoff for an inside edge jump is an inside edge, why does your movement look so awkward? On the ice, your blade needs to press to the inside, but when you take off now, your feet are flat. This translates to a flat edge on the ice, which is non-compliant, do you understand?”

Zhang Jue, with a troubled expression said: “Uncle…” Then correcting himself under Zhang Junbao’s stern gaze: “Coach, I can’t achieve an inside edge on the ground. It seems like my posture and foot turn inward.”

“How were you able to achieve it in 2F off-ice training?”

Zhang Jue explained: “Jumping a 2F and 3F require completely different levels of strength, and the postures used are impossible to be the same. Alright, alright, you don’t have to stare at me like that. Let me try again.”

He said this and jumped onto the jump box again, performing another 3F off-ice jump.

Zhang Jue’s skill set was quite unique. Aside from the simplest 3T with a left foot pointing at the ice, all the other jumps he learned, such as 3S and 3Lo, were toe jumps. However, he hadn’t perfected the required toe jumps, 3F and 3Lz.

If one thought this was due to Zhang Jue lacking explosive power, that wouldn’t be accurate. The 3Lo demanded a 1080-degree rotation in the air, and Zhang Jue could delay the rotation and raise his hands during a 3S. This indicated his capacity to handle a 1080-degree rotation. Zhang Junbao had secretly calculated his rotational limit, and it was almost 1200 degrees.

The required rotation for a 3A, a triple Axel jump with a rotation of three and a half turns, was only 1260 degrees. According to international competition rules, as long as the deviation from the required degree is within 90 degrees, the jump is considered valid. In other words, Zhang Jue’s rotational ability is sufficient for him to challenge the 3A!

Zhang Junbao observed Zhang Jue’s back with confusion: “Why can’t he perform a 3F? With his abilities, he should be able to…”

Zhang Jue was also puzzled. Despite his verbal agreement with his uncle to start an athlete’s career and participate in competitions, he didn’t want the problem to lie in his own lack of ability.

After being stuck with the 3F for so long, Zhang Jue was indeed feeling frustrated. He had good talent, right? He could perform toe jumps so easily. Why was the toe jump of the 3F not working? He had been practicing diligently, and even the height of his jumps had increased.

Could it be that his talent was just an illusion? Was the 3F his ceiling after all?

“Have him try to break the habit of delaying rotation every time he takes off.”

A clear voice came from behind the two men. Both the uncle and nephew turned around and saw Shen Liu holding crutches, breathing heavily, smiling at them.

“Zhang Jue is used to using delayed rotation in any jump, which is good. Judges like technically superior and proficient jumps, and they will definitely give you a higher Grade of Execution (GOE). However, the first element of a jump is to complete it first, not how well it looks. Zhang Jue, try tightening your body and rotating with all your strength immediately after taking off for the 3F. Once you can master this jump, then you can incorporate the delayed technique later.”

On this day, Song Cheng announced that the provincial team had gained a new assistant coach—Shen Liu. His main responsibility was to assist the head coach in training students and impart his outstanding jumping skills.

For Zhang Jue, in addition to having Zhang Junbao as his head coach, he now had Shen Yige specifically teaching him how to jump.

The younger children in the training hall looked at Shen Liu’s soft black hair with regret: “Can your foot really not recover? Big brother, I think being an athlete is more reliable than being a coach. Moreover, aren’t you a good student? After retiring, weren’t you going to become a university professor? Why are you now my coach?”

Wake up! There’s no future in sports compared to being an academic or a translator!”

Shen Liu shook his head. “It really can’t get better, but as long as I can still skate, I won’t retire. It’s not possible now.”

He half-knelt in front of Zhang Jue: “Can I teach you the quadruple jump from now on?”

Zhang Jue glanced at Zhang Junbao. Zhang Junbao’s face was urging him to agree. Zhang Jue turned to face Shen Liu, meeting the expectation in Shen Liu’s eyes, and finally nodded.


Since he had already taken on his uncle’s dream, adding Shen Liu didn’t seem like a big deal. But at this moment, Zhang Jue felt such strong psychological pressure for the first time after his rebirth.

All these people wanted to see him make a name for himself, but when it came to passing the 3F, Zhang Jue truly felt he wasn’t as impressive as they thought.

However, Shen Liu seemed to have noticed something. He touched Zhang Jue’s soft black hair and spoke faster.

“Don’t feel pressured. I just think that if you want to skate on a higher stage, you will definitely need my help. Don’t forget, I am one of the world’s best figure skaters in men’s singles, especially in jumping. If we only talk about jumping techniques, I’m not inferior to Vasily.”

When it came to jumping, even with a crutch in his hand, Shen Liu’s confidence visibly brightened.

Zhang Jue thought: “Of course, I know your jumping skills are excellent. In a year, when the International Skating Union compiles videos of jumps by male singles skaters according to the regulations, you will be the only East Asian included.”

Despite the relatively weak performance of Asian male singles skaters in international competitions, Shen Liu had indeed taken up the banner for East Asian skaters.

Since joining the provincial team, within a month, the techniques of those younger children in the team who had poor jumping habits had improved by at least half, and Zhang Jue, in particular, progressed rapidly. In the second week of Shen Liu’s teaching, he conquered the 3F and attempted a three-jump combination of 3F+2T+2T, starting to overcome the 3Lz.

At the same time, Zhang Jue’s program planning also began to be scheduled.

Generally, the provincial team had fixed choreographers, usually teachers from the provincial dance academy. Unless the skill level was very good and the child was already expected to participate in formal competitions, for domestic competitions, some children didn’t need to plan their own programs. They could just perform the programs of their seniors.

As athletes within the program, their costumes were funded by the provincial team. They asked teachers from the fashion design school for help in designing, then sent the designs to a professional costume-making studio for making.

Zhang Jue’s treatment was particularly special because of Shen Liu’s request and Qin Xuejun’s assistance. He successfully invited the best choreographer available.

When Madam Mia appeared on the training ground, several coaches, who had been scolded to tears by her during their athlete days, instinctively stood up straight, tensing their bodies.

With a head full of elegant hair, Madam Mia swept her eyes across the field and asked in Mandarin with a Northeastern accent: “Where are Junbao and little Jue?”


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