China's silver duo engaged on ice

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 20 2011 04:42 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2011 12:42 AM

BEIJING - China's Olympic silver medal figure skating duo Tong Jian and Pang Qing, who professed their love for each other after the Vancouver Games last year, made it official with a weekend proposal on ice.

Tong got down on bended knee Sunday in front of thousands of fans at the end of a skating exhibition in Shanghai to ask for his partner Pang's hand in marriage, offering her red roses and a ring engraved with a snowflake.

"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, prompting Pang -- his skating partner of 18 years -- to break down in tears.

"I didn't expect this until I saw the roses," Pang said, according to the China Daily.

"My mind went blank at that moment, but after that I felt extremely happy. Thanks Tong, you gave me such a wonderful proposal."

In Vancouver, husband-and-wife team Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the gold, coming out of retirement to give China its first Olympic figure skating title and breaking 50 years of Russian domination in the pairs event.

Tong and Pang, now both 31, won the free skate with a world record points total to catapult themselves into second place for a 1-2 Chinese finish.

The pair first skated together in 1993, and have made steady progress since their debut in the 2000 world championships, clinching the bronze at the worlds just four years later.

They narrowly missed a medal at the 2006 Games in Turin, finishing fourth.

Tong said he first thought of proposing at the Four Continents Championship earlier this year, but a mistake in the free skate -- even though the pair won gold -- doused his enthusiasm.

Then at the world championships in Moscow in April, the pair finished third, again dampening Tong's resolve. But at the "Art on Ice" show in Shanghai, Tong felt the conditions were perfect.

"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," he said.

Wedding bells are however not in the couple's immediate plans. They will soon head to the United States to work on their routine for the coming season.

"For the marriage, please allow us more time. We still want to focus on training and competing on ice," Tong said.