Chinese figure skating great Han Cong will not defend his Olympic pairs gold medal at the 2026 Games in Milan.
The 31-year-old on Tuesday announced his withdrawal from all competitions in the 2026 Winter Olympic cycle due to injury problems. He did not indicate if he intends to make a comeback after the Milan Games, while uncertainty surrounds the plans of his Olympic champion pairs partner Sui Wenjing.
"I'm very sorry to announce that I have decided to quit all competitions of the 2026 Winter Olympic cycle. After the Beijing Winter Olympics, I underwent treatment for over a year and a half, but my current physical condition is not good enough to return to top-level competition," Han wrote on his personal Weibo account on Tuesday.
"In the coming years, I intend to continue to show up at the rink but in a different role, and I will keep fighting new battles.
"I hope my partner Sui Wenjing will be brave and keep chasing her own dreams. We will always be perfect partners for each other in pairs skating."
Han and Sui are icons of the sport in China. After 15 years competing together, the two realized their ultimate dream by winning pairs gold at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, transforming them into household names in their home country.
Their triumph was China's second ever Olympic title in the discipline. The first was won by Sui and Han's coach, Zhao Hongbo, and his partner, Shen Xue, at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
However, Han has been beset by injury troubles in recent years. The Chinese pair's preparations for the Beijing Games were interrupted when Han underwent hip surgery in April 2020, making their gold medal at the home Olympics even more remarkable.
It is unclear if Han will attempt to return to competition after the 2026 Olympics, but Sui backed his decision to take time out from his career.
"I just hope he can recover as soon as possible. I know about all the struggles he has been facing with his injuries. It's a pity, but I understand and support his decision," Sui wrote on social media.
"No matter what happens, we are always each other's best cheerleader, and we are each other's sun, warming each other. Our figure staking dreams will never die, and we are always fighting in different ways."
Indeed, the two have displayed unwavering support for one another throughout their careers.
Sui has also endured her share of major injuries and surgeries. She was forced to sit out the 2018 Grand Prix season after sustaining a stress fracture in her foot, with Han helping her through her recovery.
Sui and Han have won virtually all figure skating's major titles. They were twice crowned pairs world champion and claimed a silver medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
They have not competed since their victory at Beijing 2022, although they have remained busy.
Han was appointed to the International Skating Union's single and pair skating technical committee last September, while Sui works as a choreographer for other skaters and studied at Beijing Dance Academy.