Figure Skating: I’m More Suited for the Olympics – Chapter 29 Opponent

In October, the magic city (referring to Shanghai) still experienced the lingering heat of the autumn so after finishing a bowl of hot noodles, one would break into a sweat. However, in the three northeastern provinces, the autumn wind gradually cooled.

When Zhang Jue completed his performance and returned to H city, the autumn wind greeted him immediately upon disembarking from the plane, making him shiver. He quickly zipped up his coat to the highest point.

A slightly long fringe was blown across Zhang Jue’s eyes by the wind. He squinted and casually swept his hair behind his ear.

Shen Liu touched the boy’s thick and silky black hair: “Your hair has grown a bit long. Do you want to get a haircut?”

Actually, it wouldn’t matter if he didn’t cut it. Zhang Jue used to be a well-behaved student with short hair. Now, with long hair, he had a bit of a handsome and charming appearance, reminiscent of a character from a Japanese anime, which was quite pleasing.

Shen Liu jokingly said: “The first time Madam Mia saw you in costume, she mentioned that while you’re still young, you could try growing your hair. Ice skating fans really like your current style, and with long hair, styling would be more convenient.”

Figure skating is a sport where appearance matters a lot, both judges and fans are keen on aesthetics. Good-looking athletes receive higher scores even in performances. So, Shen Liu didn’t mind discussing appearance issues with his students.

Zhang Jue now had the typical slender and elegant appearance, with beautiful features and a clear and positive temperament. Even with exquisite dressing, he didn’t appear too delicate. On the contrary, he looked more ethereal and agile. Madam Mia also said long hair would suit him and it was not an exaggeration.

The uncle laughed: “Little Jue had long hair once, kept it until before starting primary school, and the braids are still kept at home.”

This was a custom in their hometown. Some families, out of love for their children, feared that the child might not survive, so they let the child keep a braid made of baby hair. It symbolized tying the child’s life to the braid, which disasters couldn’t take away. They would cut it when the child reached a certain age.

When Zhang Jue was born, he suffered from prolonged jaundice, so Zhang Qingyan kept a braid for him.

At that time, when he was an idol trainee, Zhang Jue had tried various exaggerated hairstyles. Hearing this, he casually replied: “Then I’ll go trim my fringe. I’ll keep the hair at the back.”

As they chatted, they left the airport.

It had only been a day since the post-competition performance, and there were still two days left in the National Day holiday. Zhang Junbao waved his hand, instructing Zhang Jue not to train before the end of the holiday, encouraging him to rest well and take care of his body.

Zhang Jue nodded in agreement. Before the taxi reached home, he leaned against the coach and started dozing off.

The vehicle swayed along the winding road. After a while, someone supported him, lying on a familiar and warm shoulder. Someone carried him steadily forward, and the sound of suitcase wheels rolling on the cement road could be heard.

It had rained the night before, and the air was humid. The uncle seemed to have said: “Look at him sleeping like this, he wouldn’t even know if he got kidnapped.” Shen Liu laughed softly and replied in a hushed tone.

Zhang Jue buried his face in the uncle’s neck, almost snoring contentedly. When the door opened, he was tucked into a soft quilt. Someone reached out to touch his forehead, and someone covered him with a blanket. Zhang Jue knew he was home.

Before returning to Northeast China, Zhang Jue had received an invitation from the national team.

When the highly respected national team head coach, Sun Qian, crouched in front of Zhang Jue, kindly offering this invitation, Coach Song Cheng immediately showed a puzzled expression.

Digging the wall in person, Sun Qian lacked sportsmanship!

Moreover, Sun Qian not only wanted to recruit Zhang Jue but also showed interest in Zhang Jue’s two coaches and even his junior sister, Xu Chuo. It was like he was brandishing a shovel, ready to strike.

However, Zhang Jue declined the offer.

It’s not that he didn’t know that joining the national team would upgrade his current resources, and the Sports Management Center could even provide him with endorsement fees. This would make it unnecessary for him to hesitate even in performing non-competitive programs. However, it was precisely because of this that Zhang Jue couldn’t accept Sun Qian’s kindness.

Doesn’t he know his own situation? Now, he looks only 154 cm tall, but in two years, when he reaches the age for the senior category, this small body will enter a rapid growth phase, growing from 159 cm to 179 cm in about a year and a half.

Rounding it up to 180 cm.

Figure skating is a precise sport that requires athletes to control their bodies precisely. Zhang Jue already felt heavier when jumping if he gained a little weight. If he grows 20 cm in one go, can he still maintain the balance and techniques he has now?

Not to mention, during the growth period, in addition to gaining height, he would also gain weight. When Zhang Jue was a child, he grew from 45 kg to 68 kg. Later, as an idol trainee, he had to lose weight and control his weight. Even at his thinnest, he still weighed around 65 kg.

He didn’t think he could pass through the development hurdle, and by that time, he would also be entering the busiest period of high school studies.

Zhang Jue wasn’t a genius with a perfect memory. At most, he had a strong learning ability, but even with that, he still needed to review and take notes to ensure stable grades. This would be even more necessary in high school, and in the face of the college entrance examination, figure skating would have to take a backseat.

So, it’s better for him to stay in the provincial team. It would prevent Coach Sun from having the misconception of him becoming a rising star in men’s singles, only to be disappointed later.

As for the next two years, Zhang Jue felt that he could help his uncle and Shen Liu dig up a few potentially talented youngsters. With the advantage of rebirth, H province was like a gold mine to Zhang Jue, hiding three or two treasure boys and girls.

It’s not that he doesn’t like figure skating or doesn’t want to skate for a few more years. Zhang Jue admitted that he enjoyed competitions, and the fans were adorable. After this trip to the magic city, Zhang Jue had realized the charm of competitive sports. However, the time he could retain his current appearance was limited. When his skills decline due to development, Zhang Jue would be willing to keep his identity as a figure skater, but he probably wouldn’t achieve any outstanding results.

Until that day comes, he’ll just skate well…

Zhang Jue hugged the small blanket tightly, sinking into sleep, but far away, ripples were stirred because of him.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, Vasili, the top male skater and the current world No.1, turned on the TV. A beautiful female voice resonated.

“The Chinese Junior Grand Prix, 2010 edition, has concluded in China last night. Our 16-year-old compatriot, Jin Zixuan, won the silver medal, and the 13-year-old prodigy, Zhang Jue, won the bronze.”

Russian television doesn’t mute the original sound when broadcasting foreign shows or news. Instead, they add a separate track, essentially providing simultaneous translation. It might seem strange to foreigners, but they were quite used to it.

Is this kid, named Jue Zhang, the hope for Chinese men’s singles that Shen Liu has been focusing on since retiring?

Since figure skating was popular in Russia, even youth competitions were valued, and the TV station broadcasts youth events from other countries.

Vasili initially sat nonchalantly, but as the performance of the Black Swan on the TV became more intense, he gradually sat up, looking peculiar.

This kid’s condition was really off. His jumps and spins collapse together, but his expressive power is shockingly captivating. Shen Liu is a man who amazes the audience with quadruple jumps, so why does his student seem to be following an artistic route?

When “The Nutcracker” started, and that beautiful 3A appeared, Vasili was surprised.

He retracted his earlier statement. The boy’s jumps were light and graceful, with good quality. Perhaps the short program was an anomaly, but in the free skate, he used a resilience that Vasili admired to turn the situation around.

Moreover, this boy can do a Biellmann spin, and his skating and performance are excellent. If not for the stumble in the short program, he would have been the undisputed champion of the Chinese part.

At this moment, a question came from behind Vasili.

“Who is he?”

Vasili turned around to see his junior, Ilya Safoshenko.

He shrugged: “He’s your opponent, Jue Zhang. He just entered the junior category this year but has already won gold in the U.S. and bronze in China. Barring any surprises, you’ll meet in the Grand Prix Final.”

Ilya walked slowly to the TV. The Asian boy had already put on a comical pajama and was skating to “Baby Shark.”

He frowned slightly: “He looks like a girl.”

Vasili: “Let me remind you, you looked like a girl too before puberty.”

The mischievous senior brother showed a gloating expression: “Be careful. In the past two years, Asia has produced quite a few talents in men’s singles. Shiori Okajima performed just as well as you in the first event. How thrilling the victory was, you know better than anyone. This kid won’t be easy to deal with.”

Ilya glanced at him, leaving a cold remark: “Okajima can be considered, but I don’t think a kid who can’t even jump a proper 3F can threaten me. Figure skating is a competitive sport. Being good at performances alone won’t make you a champion.”

At the same time, in Kanagawa, Japan, at 7 PM, Shiori Okajima finished his high school homework, took off his glasses, pinched his nose, and stood up to get some water in the living room.

Shiori’s elder sister, Yuka, was watching TV. Seeing her brother finally leaving, she waved cheerfully.

“Hey, Shiori, I just watched the broadcast of the Chinese competition.”

Shiori responded: “Yeah, is the champion the kid who won in the U.S.?”

Yuka shook her head regretfully: “No, the reporters said he had a fever. Competing while sick, Zhang Jue had a terrible fall in the short program, and even though he desperately tried to catch up in the free skate, he only got the bronze. The champion was from Juventus Bratov.”

Bronze still gets 11 points, so that kid can still make it to the Grand Prix Final.

Figure skating was also a popular sport in Japan. Since the debut of this beautiful young man, Zhang Jue has been well-regarded by many face-loving fans. His skating, performance, and incredible flexibility ware indeed excellent.

But Zhang Jue was still too green. His jump height was not outstanding, and his 3F jump was oddly poisonous. It would probably take another two years for him to become a real rival.


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