Yikes -- It's not good to be a Chinese gymnast or swimmer this week. With all the rumors swirling around the age of the tiny gymnasts (my guess is 12) or the supposed doping of their swimmers, one question remains clear: Would there be such a fuss if they won pewter? Everyone should just drop these inquiries and immediately go back to the switcheroo thing the officials did at the opening ceremonies with the little girls. For those unfamiliar, a nine-year-old model was chosen to lip-synch a song in
the opening ceremonies while the real singer, a supposedly less pretty seven-year-old, was behind the curtains. China's "Milli Vanilli" moment and straight out of Singin' in the Rain with Gene Kelly, where the plot was exactly that, curtains and all! I guess the Chinese officials saw the movie. Personally, I want to see the little girl get a record deal in the U.S. -- wouldn't that be great? (photo below: Lin Miakoke who showed up to lip synch is at left, Yang Peiy who sang behind the curtains is at right)
Anyway, watching the Chinese athletes on television the last several days, I was reminded of another great Chinese athlete -- Chen Lu (陈露 or 陳露), the 1994 and 1998 Olympic bronze medalist in figure skating. Chen won the bronze at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, which was kind of overshadowed by the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding debacle. In 1994, Oksana Baiul won the gold and Nancy Kerrigan won the silver. At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Chen's third place win was also a little overshadowed by the gold and silver medalists, Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan, respectively. Skating aficionados everywhere applauded Chen's achievements because she had overcome many obstacles, physical and mental, to make it to a second Olympic medal.
After retiring from competitive skating in 1998, Chen toured for a few years, and in July 2005 married Russian pairs skater Denis Petrov (see right). In June 2006, they welcomed a son, Nikita. Chen is now manager of the World Ice Arena Skating Academy, which is a mall rink in Shenzhen in southern China, west of Hong Kong. Denis is a coach at the skating school. During a recent trip to China, we had a chance to visit with Chen and Denis and talk about the state of skating in China. (Click here to view our video story.)
Below is Chen's emotional and artistic free skate to Butterfly Lovers at the 1998 Winter Olympics, which clinched her second Olympic bronze medal.