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China’s figure skating lovebirds on home stretch

Sochi: They missed out on a medal at the Sochi Olympics on Wednesday but China’s figure skating lovebirds Pang Qing and Tong Jian are excited about life beyond the rink.

In their final performance before retiring, Pang and Tong finished fourth overall in the pairs event at the Iceberg Skating Palace. But now the couple have something else to prepare for — their marriage. They have been engaged for two-and-a-half years but have delayed their trip to the chapel until they finished competing.

“We haven’t planned our ceremony yet as we’ve been focused on our training,” Tong said. “Now it’s time for us to think about it.”

The pair have been skating together for over 20 years and have formed a formidable partnership on the ice, winning the world championship in 2006 and 2010. They also won a silver medal at the last Olympics in Vancouver, where they publicly revealed they were romantically as well as professionally linked.

The following year they became engaged after a highly-publicised wedding proposal that went viral on the internet.

Tong popped the question to Pang during a skating tournament in Shanghai in 2011 in front of a crowd of around 20,000 people and millions more watching live on television.

After they finished their routine, he skated back on to the ice with a bunch of red roses in one hand and a ring in the other.

He knelt down and asked for her hand in marriage, which Pang accepted. The pair decided not to walk down the aisle immediately because they wanted to remain focussed on their skating careers.

When they didn’t skate at the 2011-12 Grand Prix meets, speculation began to mount that they were getting ready to tie the knot, before they announced they would keep going.

But the two 34-year-olds said they were definitely finishing their skating careers after Sochi, so the wedding bells could soon be heard.

“We’re happy to have had the chance to skate our last performance at the Olympic Winter Games,” Tong said. “It’s an honour.”