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Wang Meng Wins China's First Gold in Turin
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Chinese Wang Meng won the women's 500m short track speedskating Wednesday night, securing China's first gold medal at the Turin Winter Olympic Games.

The Olympic debutant led from the start clocking a time of 44.345 seconds. This is China's third Winter Olympic gold with Yang Yang having won two in 2002.

Bulgarian Evgenia Radanova, world record holder and 2002 silver medalist, had to settle for a silver again with a time of 44.374 seconds. Canada's Anouk Leblang-Boucher got the bronze in 44.759 with Chinese Fu Tianyu disqualified for cross tracking.

The 20-year-old Wang, who has won four World Cup races over 500m, proved beyond all doubt that she is the most consistent 'short tracker' in the world.

The victory helped ease the disappointment of China losing an expected gold in the women's 500m long-track speedskating when World Cup leader, Wang Manli, came second to Russia's Svetlana Zhurova on Tuesday.

Like China's Athens Olympic champion Liu Xiang, Wang jumped to the podium and with broad smiles waved excitedly to the cheering crowd. A laughing Wang said, "I was just so excited and anxious to get onto the podium!"

Wang, however, admitted she wasn't completely satisfied with her performance.

"I was pretty nervous tonight," Wang said. "My run was not very good from the beginning. My coach has been encouraging me all the time--telling me to trust myself. I followed the advice and I made it today."

Yi Min, head coach of the Chinese women's team, said he was concerned before the semi-finals because Wang hadn't performed particularly well in the quarters. "Wang Meng seemed to be a little tense and was not herself," Yin told Xinhua. "She should have won more easily."

Wang, known for her calmness in competition explained that she didn't understand why she had become so nervous.

"I didn't feel pressure before I came to Turin but when I got here here I realized that the Olympics are totally different to the World Cup and Championships," Wang said.

Obviously still flushed with her success Wang was finding it difficult to calm down. "I need to compose myself," she said. "I still have races to compete in and I shouldn't think too much about the gold as I need to focus myself completely and attempt to win more medals."

(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2006)

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