Tan Xue, left, displays her overwhelming power on her way to the final, in which she met a fierce challenge from Mariel Zagunis of the United States
Chinese fencers Tan Xue and Wang Lei ended China's 12-year Olympic medal drought when they collected two silver medals at the Athens Olympic Games Tuesday evening.
World champion Tan Xue came second to Mariel Zagunis of the United States in the women's sabre while Wang Lei lost to world number one Marcel Fischer of Switzerland 15-9 in the final.
Tan Xue displayed her overwhelming power on her way to the final, in which she met a fierce challenge from Zagunis, who won the gold medal bout 15-9.
Starting her sports career as a hurdle sprinter when she was a kid, Tan was selected into the track and field team of Tianjing Sports Education School in 1998 and switched to fencing the same year.
Inspired by a film about Zorro, a legendary Spanish hero who used a sword to fight against evil governors, Tan quickly became one of the most promising stars in China and won the national championship the following year.
The left-handed Tan became the first Chinese to win a gold medal at the world championships in 2002, offering China the best shot of the gold medal of individual events in Athens.
"I didn't find a good strategy to deal with Zagunis' attack. I feel sorry that I didn't win the gold medal, but it's a good experience and could be a boost of my career," Tan said.
Swiss world No.1 fencer Fischer lived up to the expectation to win the first gold medal for the Switzerland in Athens.
Wang Lei's silver medal is the only individual medal for the Chinese male fencers in the Olympic history.
His previous best results were third place finish in the World Cup in 2000 and the runner-up of the world junior championships in 2001.
"I have nothing to lose so I didn't feel any pressure," the 23-year-old Wang said. "I've tried my best and got the best out of it.I'm excited. I feel I can play like this all the way in the competition."
(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2004)