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Han Cong, Olympic pairs’ figure skating champion, to sit out Olympic cycle


File photo taken on Feb. 19, 2022 shows Sui Wenjing L/Han Cong of China celebrate after the figure skating pair skating free skating of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, capital of China. The pairs skaters triumphed at the Beijing Winter Olympics, winning China’s second Olympic figure skating title after Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo did it in Vancouver in 2010. (Photo by Cao Can/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Han Cong, a 2022 Olympic pairs’ figure skating gold medalist with Sui Wenjing, said he will sit out competition through the 2026 Winter Games, according to a Weibo post that’s being cited by Chinese media.

Sui, 28, and Han, 31, have not competed since taking gold for host China at the 2022 Winter Games.

Han said in the post that he cannot return to competition after taking a year and half after the Olympics for rehabilitation. He did not specify an injury. Han did have April 2020 hip joint surgery, which took more than a year to recover from.

Sui has not announced publicly whether she plans to return to competition with a different partner.

Last September, Han was appointed a member of the International Skating Union’s singles and pairs’ skating technical committee.

Sui and Han, who hail from the Chinese pairs’ hub of Harbin, were inspired to start skating after watching 2010 Olympic champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo compete at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Zhao became one of their coaches.

In 2018, Sui and Han missed gold by 43 hundredths of a point in the closest Olympic figure skating result since the scoring system debuted in 2006. In 2022, they won by 63 hundredths for China’s second Olympic figure skating title after Shen and Zhao.

They also won two senior world titles and three junior world titles while navigating a series of injuries.

In Sui and Han’s absence, Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier and Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the last two world titles.

Knierim and Frazier said this past season would likely be their last, though they have not announced a retirement.