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Zhangs to Unveil Quadruple Jump
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Young Chinese skaters Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, who are currently in second place after the short programme competition at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, will try a complicated movement in the deciding free skate.

They will attempt quadruple throw salchows in Monday's free skate (Tuesday morning, Beijing time), according to their coach Yao Bin.

"The two Zhangs will be sure to show the quadruple throw in their free skate," said Yao. "But the final results won't be decided by this movement alone. History will be made with this movement, but I'm not sure if it will secure the gold."

At the 2002 Winter Games, China's star pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo tried the quadruple throw salchows in the free skating programme, but Shen failed to land properly, which left them in third place.

Shen and Zhao are fifth this time after being absent from competition for the whole season due to Zhao's tendon injury.

Zhang and Zhang are the first pair to successfully complete the quadruple throw in formal competition; they did it at China's 10th National Games last year, where they won the gold medal.

Now, they believe they are in the right form to do this difficult movement again.

During Sunday's short programme competition, the two Zhangs scored 35.21 points for technical elements and 29.51 for performance components - a total of 64.72 points. They are behind Russia's reigning world champion duo Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin.

Their new personal best score for artistic performance also helped them to start China's gold medal chase at this year's Games in Turin.

"We were very, very satisfied with our routine today, especially with the artistic performance," Zhang Hao said after the competition. "Since all the programme component scores were above seven this time, we achieved a breakthrough."

As to the free skate on Monday, they promised to do their best.

"This is our best performance this season and our aim at this Olympics is to show our best," Zhang Dan said.

Another Chinese pair, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, also hit the ice with their best form. Characterized by their remarkable high and fly throw, the 2004 world bronze medallists earned 63.19 points to Variations on a Theme of Paganini to be placed fourth after Russia's Maria Petrova and Alexie Tikknonov.

"We are satisfied with our performance as we skated with clear minds for every technical element," said Tong afterwards. "Achieving a good result at the Olympics is what we expect and we are confident about the free skating."

Shen and Zhao back

The biggest news for Chinese figure skating fans may not only be the good performance of the two young pairs, but also the return of Shen and Zhao, the two-time world champions and two-time winners of the Grand Prix Finals.

Although placed only fifth after the short programme, Shen and Zhao still caught much of the attention during the competition.

It's just short of a year since Zhao ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session, he stepped onto the Olympic ice rink and successfully landed the triple toe-loop, a move which caused his injury.

However, the pair were not always lucky because during a side-by-side triple jump Shen's hand touched the ice.

"The mistake was unexpected as I've never failed doing it before," said Shen. "My partner Zhao performed very well."

Zhao expressed his satisfaction.

"Before stepping onto the ice, I felt so confident that I would land the triple jump well," he said. "Maybe Shen thought too much about me while jumping and didn't focus on her own role. Overall, we performed well."

History seemed to repeat itself with the unlucky pair.

In 2003, Shen, despite an injured ankle, competed at the world championships. She did perfectly, but Zhao made a mistake in the short programme.

However, their flawless performance in the free skate earned them four full marks from the judges and they finally came from second place to successfully defend their world title.

After realizing his first dream of standing on the Olympic ice, the 33-year-old Zhao is waiting for a similar miracle this time.

"It's just the short programme. The small error won't effect the free skate," said Zhao. "We will fight again in the free skate.

In the other events on the first competition day of the Winter Olympics, China's Zhang Chengye came 50th in the men's 20km biathlon, with German's Michael Greis winning the first medal of this year's Winter Olympics. China's Gao Xuefeng came 25th in the men's 5,000m speed skating, with Chad Hedrick, of the United States, winning the gold.

China also made a successful Olympic debut in the ski jump contest. Li Yang came 26th to become the nation's first athlete to reach the final on the event.

(China Daily February 13, 2006)

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