Chen Lu ((陈露 or 陳露) and Denis Petrov are quite content making a life for themselves in Shenzhen, China. In the first piece on Lulu and Denis, we spoke about their efforts to promote figure skating in China. The duo run the skating academy at World Ice Arena, which is located in a gigantic shopping mall! Not a place you'd expect to see Olympic medalists -- but Lulu and Denis are determined to bring their expertise to the next generation of figure skaters. In the above piece, we had a chance to talk about a variety of topics, including the current judging system, life after "retirement," family life with son Nikita, and a special message to their fans. Here is their extended interview from our visit.
Chen Lu (陈露 or 陳露), two-time Olympic bronze medalist and World champion (see below), and Denis Petrov,
Olympic silver medalist in pairs with Elena Bechke, are paving the way for the next generation of Chinese figure skaters. At the World Ice Arena in Shenzhen, China, Lulu (as she is known) and Denis are involved with the skating academy in the unlikeliest of places -- on the fourth floor of the MIXc CityCrossing Shopping Center, one of China's largest malls. The World Ice Arena opened in late 2004 and is China's first Olympic-sized recreational indoor skating rink. Lulu runs the skating school and has over 1000 students and ten coaches, including head coach Denis, on her staff.
After retiring from amateur competition in 1998, Lulu skated professionally and in tours for many years. She and Denis married in July 2005 and welcomed son Nikita one year later. We caught up with them at the World Ice Arena and it was a thrill to see a trailblazer in Chinese figure skating give back to the next generation. China has been an emerging force in the international figure skating community for the past ten years, with pairs teams Qing Pang/Jian Tong and Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang consistently on the medals podium. But skating still doesn't have the widespread popularity in China as it does in Japan, Europe and the United States. Lulu and Denis are working hard to promote skating in China so that a new crop of skaters will emerge to lead China as a great figure skating nation in all disciplines.
As an aside, there are two pieces of music playing in the background in the above video. The second is called Butterfly Lovers, which was Lulu's free skate music at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where she captured her second Olympic bronze medal.
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.