Published: June 20, 2011
SHANGHAI - With roses, a ring and the blessing of a grandstand of spectators, Pang Qing should have been the happiest woman on the center of the ice stage on Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
At the end of Art on Ice, a show based on the compelling theme of figure skaters performing to live music, Pang's skating partner of 18 years, Tong Jian, proposed marriage to her, in front of thousands of spectators in the stands and millions watching the telecast throughout the country.
China's latest lovebirds on ice made their promise to each other.
"I didn't expect this until I saw the roses," said a moved Pang afterward. "My mind went blank at that moment, but after that I felt extremely happy. Thanks Tong, you gave me such a wonderful proposal."
The two-time world champion pair announced their love affair after the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in February last year, where they claimed a silver medal behind compatriots Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo. It was a breakthrough for China's figure skating and also a realization of Pang's and Tong's Olympic dream.
"Before the Vancouver Winter Games, claiming an Olympic medal was my dream, but now my dream is to have you with me forever," Tong said to Pang at the end of the figure skating show on Sunday, which drove his partner to tears.
Four years ago, at the 2007 World Championships in Tokyo, Pang/Tong's older teammate Zhao knelt down to propose to his partner Shen after they claimed their third World Championship title. The veteran couple held their wedding on ice last September at a figure skating show in Beijing.
Tong thought of emulating that proposal after the Four Continents Championships final earlier this year, at which he and Pang won gold, but a mistake by Tong in the free-skating competition curbed his romantic zeal.
The World Championships in Moscow in April was another chance, as the pair was defending their world title. But the pair, both of whom are 31 years old, only brought home a bronze medal, finishing behind Germany's Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy and Russia's Tatyana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov.
The Art on Ice show this weekend in Shanghai provided Tong with a perfect opportunity.
"I have been thinking of such a marriage proposal since the Moscow World Championships," Tong told China Daily.
"The lights and music for the figure skating show are more colorful than for the competitions and the pressure for the performances is not as great as it is for competitions, so I thought this show was a perfect chance for a romantic proposal. I hope to make her feel extremely happy. I think I achieved it today."
For the proposal, Tong helped design the ring for Pang, on which a snowflake was carved.
"The shape of the ring means I'm holding her and the snowflake means our career. I conveyed all my love to her through the ring," Tong said.
After the show, the pair will go to the United States to develop the choreography for their new routine for the coming season. The wedding is not on their schedule yet.
"Before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, we were thinking of reducing the number of competitions we take part in each year," Tong said. "But for the marriage, please allow us more time. We still want to focus on training and competing on ice."