Worlds in Question for Two Top Chinese Skaters


Han Yan may have to withdrawal due to shoulder issues; Zijun Li currently off the team possibly for political reasons.

Next week’s World Championships was rocked on Monday when top ladies contender Satoko Miyahara withdrew. But even by then, she wasn’t the only one with injury news. Word was getting out, including to western readers, that Chinese’s second man, Han Yan, is also struggling with injury. All this week, fans have dreaded hearing that he too is out.

As of Wednesday evening, he still isn’t. But his is no longer the main story coming out of China. That dubious honor instead goes to what’s going on with the country’s ladies entrants.

Han Yan Struggling with Shoulder Dislocation

The bad news first hit last week, when Han Yan posted a photo of his shoulder to his Weibo. A fan account on Twitter posted it with a report of what he had said in English:

This is serious enough a problem that most expected a withdrawal. But this week, he posted again. Once again we got a fan translation. The description it gave of his condition is not at all encouraging. Nor were his words about it being time to rest. The post established he hasn’t given up yet, but it made it sound like he probably will soon.

That may even be what one has to hope he’ll do, with no certainty as to whether he will or not. The majority of skaters will want to skate through an injury, especially to make a competition like Worlds. But it may be a bad idea, if his shoulder is in this vulnerable state. If he needs surgery already, he probably should stay home until he gets it.

Han Yan is a skater with the potential to place high, though he’s not in the habit of it. There’s no telling where he would finish at Worlds, though his injury makes a high finish less likely anyway. He could have possibly even done enough to get China three men’s berths to the Olympics, depending on how top man Boyang Jin did. But two berths has always been China’s most likely outcome. China’s only submitted substitute, Yuhang Guan, likely wouldn’t get anywhere near high enough for more. He’s not even a man who can be certain of making the free skate.

Nor, now, are either of China’s two ladies currently holding China’s two slots on the World roster.

Zijun Li Possibly Missing Worlds for the Wrong Reasons

Since the release of the Worlds roster, the Chinese names on the ladies list have changed more than once. Originally top Chinese lady Zijun Li was accompanied by senior National champion Ziquan Zhao, with top junior skater Xiangning Li as the substitute. Then Zhao and Xiangning Li switched. This was odd, but as neither were top contenders, and an argument could be made for either getting the second berth, it wasn’t the biggest deal.

When Tuesday saw them both moved to the main entry slots, and Zijun Li demoted to substitute, that was another matter. Especially when she posted angry messages to her Weibo indicating she was out due to machinations from federation officials. Official Yanhong Tang immediately denied this, saying it was instead her being ill and lacking training. (Both articles are in Chinese.) He also claimed the current status of everyone isn’t final yet.

A recently published article, also fan translated, detailed Zijun Li’s difficulties training in China and her going abroad for coaching. But there has already been evidence from China’s pairs program that not having the right coach can put a skater in disfavor. Zijun Li’s implications against her federation are all too plausible.

Next: ISU Suspends Pair of Officials

They are fools, however, if they’ve truly thrown her off for that, and if they keep her off. Even with her consistency issues and possibly not being at 100%, Zijun Li’s the best they’ve got. She’s also their only chance at sending two ladies to the Olympics; neither Zhao nor Xiangling Li can hope to finish high enough.