How sweet it is...for the Chinese figure skaters, who went 1-2 in the pairs medals, with Shen and Zhao winning gold for the first time ever. Sweeter still for their coach Bin Yao, who is getting heaps of recognition for his many years of patience and hard work. And very sweet to remember that a gay coach from the U.S. had a little input in this success.
Ronnie Robertson, silver medalist in the 1956 Winter Olympics and two-time silver winner in the World Figure Skating Championships, spent many years as a pro star in the Ice Capades. As a skater he is best remembered for his spinning -- nobody before or since has done it better, according to experts. Ronnie had a long-standing relationship with actor Tab Hunter. While he was never out in the formal sense that we require today, the fact that he was gay was known to many in the skating world.
After his retirement from show skating in 1979, Robertson was almost forgotten and ran a hotel in Arizona. He probably thought his time in the skating world was long over. Then in 1989, out of the blue, he was tapped to coach at Hong Kong's Ice Plaza by its manager, Ted Wilson. By then, Robertson was elderly and had been off the ice for many years, so the trips were taxing for him, but he evidently had a great time. For the next 10 years, from 1989 to 1999, he spent a month in Hong Kong every year, helping Chinese skaters to get a wobbly new figure-skating program off the ground. His gifts as a teacher were clear, and his input was evidently appreciated by the Chinese.
Robertson died in 2000, and is a World Hall of Famer in figure-skating today. Tonight, he was surely leaning back from the spirit world to catch a closer look at those two historic performances by the Chinese -- the ones that ended a long-time Russian ownership of pairs skating.