Figure Skating: I’m More Suited for the Olympics – Chapter 57 Love Letters

In November, as the temperature in the northern regions dropped sharply before the early self-study began, Chen Sijia sat in the classroom at Sanzhong High School, chatting with several girls. One of them, a girl named Gu Lingli, had a loud voice and a particularly hearty laugh, sharing something with them.

Gu Lingli was someone Chen Sijia had known since middle school. After meeting at Sanzhong, they discovered that they were classmates, quickly becoming close friends.

After a while, Gu Lingli whispered: “Brother Jue is here.”

The girls fell silent for a moment, then saw a petite figure with an oversized camouflage backpack walking into the classroom.

The newcomer was a very handsome boy, with dark hair, fair skin, and delicate features, wearing the Sanzhong school uniform. His jacket was loose, and his pockets were bulging. He carried a square object wrapped in a cloth in his right hand and wore a camel-colored furball hat on his head, with a mask on his face.

If you didn’t look at his face, he looked just like some rural old lady going to a market in the haze.

Someone jokingly said: “The world champion has arrived.”

Upon hearing the voice, Zhang Jue glanced over, removed his mask, and raised an eyebrow at them. “Hey, it’s been a week. Missed me?”

The group burst into laughter. “We see you every time there’s a milk advertisement on TV, no need to miss you.”

Class monitor Hou Tianqing retorted: “Why are you called ‘Brother’? You’re the youngest in the class, clearly a little brother.”

Physical education committee member Bai Yushan playfully beckoned with his finger: “Little Yu, try calling him ‘little brother.'”

Zhang Jue cleared his throat, straightened up, and with a serious expression, said: “Younger brother, your older brother hasn’t had breakfast yet. I’ll be off now.”

Bai Yushan shook his head and sighed: “Ah, Jue still refuses to give me the face.”

Hou Tianqing laughed: “He’s not Little Jue he is clearly a Fairy Crocodile.”

Zhang Jue became a school celebrity during his junior high years. During the summer break, he became the spokesperson for the local dairy brand called “Ladder Mountain Milk.” Even in high school, his popularity remained unmatched, and nicknames like “Brother Jue” and “Fairy Crocodile” had reached here.

Of course, even without these preconditions, he was attractive enough on his own.

He was the only boy in the school with long hair, ear piercings, and the teachers didn’t mind. Plus, this kid was fair, slender, and more beautiful than the school flower. In the first month of school, boys and girls would pass by Class 1 and 2 of Grade 10 every day while others pretended not to notice.

“Zhang Jue, good morning.”

Chen Sijia waved naturally: “Good morning.”

Zhang Jue responded weakly, slowly sat in the front row, and Chen Sijia happened to be sitting behind him. She saw Zhang Jue take out a plastic box from the oversized pocket of his pants, and inside were two slices of bread, packed with lettuce, purple kale, asparagus, and chicken thighs.

No salad dressing, not even oil and vinegar, just the fragrance of lemon juice, ensuring a nutritious and non-fattening meal.

With food in his mouth, Zhang Jue methodically organized and arranged his books and stationery. After finishing the bread, he took out a bottle of mineral water from his left pocket.

Wait a minute, mineral water?

This person finished half a bottle of water with a gurgling sound, then took out two boiled eggs from his pocket. Chen Sijia rested her chin on her hand, chatting with him casually.

“Your habit of stuffing a bunch of things in your pockets hasn’t changed. How was your trip to Japan this time?”

After peeling the eggs, Zhang Jue took a big bite and mumbled unclearly: “It’s good, the competition venue is the figure skating event venue from the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the ice was good and very smooth to skate.”

Chen Sijia, supporting her chin with one hand, said: “I heard you beat the second place by a whopping 40 points and broke the world record for the short program in the junior category. When I was watching TV at home, the provincial TV station dedicated half a minute of coverage to you in the news section, and they didn’t even play music at the end, just your program. Why didn’t they show your free skate?”

The last time Zhang Jue won the World Junior Championships, the TV broadcast included both his short program and free skate. Since the regional competitions wouldn’t be directly broadcast on TV, watching the competition could only be done online. However, in 2011, the internet wasn’t as advanced, and watching the uploaded competition videos in real time was almost impossible. Chen Sijia had expected the TV station to broadcast both of Zhang Jue’s programs.

Zhang Jue smiled shyly: “Because my free skate messed up. I won this time mainly because the opponents were too weak, and they fell harder than me.”

In his free skate, he attempted two quadruple jumps, one was a 4S solo jump, and the other was a 4S+2T combination. As expected, he fell spectacularly. If it weren’t for the two 3A jumps later in the program, he might have ended up with a silver medal.

During the kiss & cry, coaches Song, Shen, and Zhang all had stern faces. One of them even tapped Zhang Jue on the back of his head, scolded him, and then walked away after checking the scores.

Winning the championship and still enduring scolding, Zhang Jue had a unique experience.

Chen Sijia was familiar with Zhang Jue’s bold competition style but was still puzzled: “Did you not get scolded enough by the coaches, or what happened? Why did you mess up again?”

Zhang Jue replied: “Because it’s the first half of the season now, and the opponents I face are weak. I can afford to take some risks.”

After finishing the boiled eggs, Zhang Jue took out a lunch box from his backpack. When he opened it, it was filled with quinoa shrimp rice, pan-seared steak, tuna, and blue cauliflower.

As athletes need to pay attention to their diet, Zhang Jue brought his own lunch. The 30×20 three-layer lunch box was a gift from Hayato Teraoka, colored grass green as the base, with a cherry blossom branch covered in pink snow piled on the lid. It could be easily heated in the teacher’s office microwave during lunchtime.

Chen Sijia asked: “Wait a minute, isn’t this the lunch box you use every day for lunch?”

Zhang Jue took a few bites and said: “Nobody said lunch has to be eaten at noon.”

He managed to eat only a third of his lunch before packing it up and starting to review vocabulary. Today’s morning self-study was attended by the English teacher, and there would be a dictation, which was Zhang Jue’s weakness. He tended to struggle if not well-prepared.

As he reviewed, his eyelids began to droop. Just as Ying Dongmei entered the classroom, she saw Zhang Jue leaning on his desk, starting to doze off. She couldn’t resist lightly tapping his head with the English weekly report in her hand as she passed by.

Zhang Jue sat up, not fully awake yet, and first tilted his head, revealing a soft and cute smile. Ying Dongmei almost couldn’t resist reaching out to pinch his little face, but she restrained herself as a responsible teacher.

The children had grown up, she was a female teacher and couldn’t casually pinch the face of a 14-year-old male student. It was not appropriate, she had to maintain a proper distance between herself and the opposite sex.

With a bit of irritation, she asked: “Did you sneak out last night? You’re falling asleep during self-study.”

Zhang Jue looked embarrassed: “I didn’t book the flight in time, and I only arrived in Northeast China in the early morning. I’m sorry, teacher.”

Once he explained, the teacher couldn’t bring herself to trouble him any further. The child had taken a late-night flight just to catch up on his studies, probably without getting proper rest. How commendable! In the end, she just waved her hand and let it go.

Zhang Jue wasn’t lying, he indeed arrived in H city at three in the morning. Even though he slept on the plane and continued sleeping at home after landing, the intermittent sleep and the journey still left him not fully refreshed.

To face the upcoming classes with energy, he took advantage of the 30-minute break between early self-study and the first class to take off his coat, stretch his wrists and ankles, and head to the playground.

Chen Sijia asked him: “Zhang Jue, why are you going out? It’s quite cold outside, and aren’t you afraid of the cold?”

Zhang Jue replied: “I’m just going for a run, so I’ll be more awake for class.”

Their classroom windows faced the playground, and Chen Sijia counted. She noticed that he ran 15 laps before stopping. Their school’s playground was a standard 400 meters per lap, so Zhang Jue casually ran 6000 meters.

The casual run of an athlete, indeed.

Running could be a monotonous and tedious activity. Sometimes, it could last for forty to fifty minutes, with almost mechanical repetition of leg and arm movements, leaving the mind empty. Zhang Jue preferred to wear headphones and listen to music while running. Coincidentally, when he finished his run, the MP3 played “Lake Baikal.”

What’s more interesting is that the singer of this song was also a former student of Sanzhong. Zhang Jue now considered himself the junior of that person.

Even more coincidentally, their midterm exams were this week. Zhang Jue had a competition the previous week, followed by exams the next week. This was why Zhang Jue, gritting his teeth, didn’t stay at home to sleep but persisted in coming to school.

Although he had consistently ranked in the top five in exams before, in a prestigious school like Sanzhong, where the students were the cream of the crop, he wasn’t among the most outstanding. Zhang Qingyan had mentioned that if his grades dropped, Zhang Jue’s figure skating training time would be reduced.

This was his last season to maintain his peak condition deliberately. Zhang Jue spent money to create an impressive costume, choreographed refined programs, and even put a lot of effort into exhibition skating.

If he couldn’t give it his all in this season, he would also feel a sense of regret for the effort he put in over the past two years.

Moreover, since bringing out Zhang Jue, Zhang Junbao’s status as a coach has soared. Currently, he was recognized as the most sought-after figure skating coach in H province. If Zhang Jue could skate even more impressively before retiring, even if he left in the future, his uncle wouldn’t worry about not having good talent.

So, he had to study well to ensure training time and perform well on the ice.

Maintaining low body fat for an extended period would delay an athlete’s development, and Zhang Jue’s current healthy eating habits, free from hormone-injected foods, made his development even later.

At the age of 14, Zhang Jue hadn’t started growing taller, but his voice had begun to change. For a whole half year, his voice sounded like a duck, and even now, when he spoke, it was still a clear child’s voice, with no joint pain.

If luck was on his side, maybe he could dominate in the youth category for another year.

Zhang Jue sighed, noticing that what he exhaled was already visible as white vapor. The cold wave north of the Huai River had arrived early.

If he stopped exercising now, the heat in his body would quickly dissipate, and he might catch a cold. Thinking this way, Zhang Jue decided to run all the way back to the classroom.

The first class in the morning was Chinese language. Zhang Jue reached into his drawer, didn’t find any textbooks, but pulled out a postcard.

On the back of the postcard was Zhang Jue’s silhouette in a light blue costume standing on the ice. On the front, there was a neatly written line.

“I like you.”

The sender didn’t leave a name, but for the next three days, Zhang Jue received identical postcards.


Support translation:

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