Does Pairs Skaters Shen and Zhao's Hollywood Ending Stack Up to a Real Hollywood Ending?

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo
Unlike Kate and Doug, Shen and Zhao don't need stunt skaters.

It’s been nearly a week since Chinese pairs figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo took home the gold medal, so we’ve had some time to process the married couple’s oh-so-heartwarming comeback/love story. We’ve also had time to re-watch the 1992 classic “The Cutting Edge,” a romantic comedy about Olympic pairs skaters Kate Moseley and Doug Dorsey. As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before the obvious question presented itself: who is the ultimate skating couple, the real Olympians, or the fake ones? We felt the need to break this down.
How they got together as skaters
Kate and Doug:
The spoiled and stubborn Kate had gone through every available male pairs skater on the market. Her lovable coach, Anton Pamchenko, was at the bottom of the barrel. But Kate’s over-involved dad (John Locke!) didn’t want to hear it. He told Pamchenko to “find a new barrel.” So he did. Enter Doug, an Olympic hockey player with an eye injury that prevented him from cashing in on his NHL dreams. Pamchenko finds Doug at the steel mill where he works, brings him to Connecticut to train with Kate, and a partnership is born.

Shen and Zhao:
Shen was an individual skater before hooking up with Zhao, who – like Kate – was a pairs skater without a partner. They started skating together in 1992, 18 years ago.

Edge: Kate and Doug.

How they got together as a couple
Kate and Doug:
From the looks of things, Kate impressed Doug with her hockey-playing skills, ability to use big words and be really, really mean. And Doug? We’d like to think Kate was impressed with his passion and determination to make it as a figure skater, but really, all the ladies dug Doug. So it was probably just his winning smile. But of course it’s way more complicated that that. They hated each other at first. Until Kate ditched her Harvard MBA fiancÚ, the pair won at Nationals, Kate got drunk and threw herself at Doug, Doug wanted no part of it, then hooked up with rival skater Lorie Peckarovski, then things got messy. But right before their gold medal skate at the Olympics, Doug professed his love to Kate. And she said she loved him too. So that worked out.

Shen and Zhao:
Romantic relations between Chinese Olympians are a no-no, but Shen and Zhao got close while Zhao was recovering from a devastating Achilles tendon injury. In 2007, after their gold medal-winning skate at the World Championships, Zhao dropped to one knee to propose to Shen. She misunderstood, and kneeled down beside him. They were married three months later, in May 2007. That's adorable.

Edge: Shen and Zhao.

Forces against them as skaters
Kate and Doug:
Their American rivals, Peckarovski and Brian Newman, were nothing compared to those unbeatable Russians, Smilkov and Brushkin (as coach Pamchenko puts it, “hello Russian surprise package, goodbye gold medal”). Oh yeah. Then there’s the little matter of Doug being a hockey player and never having figure skated a day in his life until two years before the Olympics.

Shen and Zhao:
Their Chinese rivals, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, put the pressure on by skating a near-flawless long program. And of course, there was always the constant threat of the Russians, who had won every pairs gold since 1964 (including the old Soviet and Unified teams). Oh, and in addition to Zhao’s near-career ending Achilles injury, there was the whole business about them being retired and Shen not wanting to compete in another Olympics unless they were married. “He wanted to come back. I told him we had to get married first and then he can persuade me to come back for the Olympics,” she said.

Edge: Kate and Doug, but barely. Never having figure skated before pretty much trumps everything.

Forces against them as a couple
Kate and Doug:
He’s a dumb hockey player, she’s a rich, uptight snob. She was engaged to a Harvard MBA, Hale (of course that’s his name), and he never met a barfly he didn’t like. And of course, we can’t forget the whole Peckarovski incident.

Shen and Zhao:
Being Chinese Olympians means living and training in the Chinese Olympic facilities. That means living in separate dorms and eating all their meals in the cafeteria, with the rest of the athletes. How very unromantic.

Edge: Shen and Zhao.

Success as skaters
Kate and Doug:
They finished second at Nationals and, well, we don’t know how their Olympics ended. But they did do that big, scary, dangerous guaranteed-to-beat-the-Russians-if-they-pull-it-off move (the Pamchenko), so we’re guessing they won. At the very least, they won a moral victory. And isn’t that what really matters? (No.)

Shen and Zhao:
We think this quote (from the AP) sums it up: “We’ve been in competitions for many years, and won other medals … but every time we heard the national anthem and saw our flag being raised, we wished it was the Olympic Games. Today we’ve achieved our goal.” Oh, and in addition to their Vancouver gold, they have two Olympic bronze medals (2002, ‘06) and three World Champion golds (2002, ’03, ’07).

Edge: Shen and Zhao.

Success as a couple
Kate and Doug:
The movie ended at the kiss. Happily, but there's room for error.

Shen and Zhao:
They’ve been married since May 2007 and, now that they’re done skating, she’s talking about babies. We’re thinking so far, so good.

Edge: Shen and Zhao.