Zhong Man stood proudly on the podium, becoming the first Chinese winning an Olympic fencing gold medal 24 years after the country's last crowning moment in Los Angeles Games.
Zhong Man [Xinhua]
The 25-year-old sabre fencer defeated Frenchman Nicolas Lopez 15-9 in the men's sabre individual event final at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"Winning an Olympic gold only happened in my dream, but today my dream comes true!" said Zhong.
The match could hardly be an easy one for Zhong. In the final bout, it was the silver medalist Lopez who scored the first point, but he was caught up seconds later and overtaken quickly. The two tied at 4-4, then the Frenchman dominated the fight for a while, which dropped the Chinese audience into sheer silence.
Zhong managed to level the score at 6-6. He fell behind again, then made it 9-9. Cheers from the stands never stopped after this moment, as Zhong thrusted and slashed all the way on to 15-9, to the top podium and the realization of a long-awaited dream.
"I take today's competition as a good chance to learn from the world's fencing elites, so I was totally free from any pressure. I just tried my best to fence one bout after another, and then I completed my mission," he said at the press conference.
"I would like to dedicate this supreme honor to my French coach Chiristian Bauer, who brings the turning point to my life. He is the best sabre coach in the world," he said.
Foilst Luan Jujie won the unprecedented fencing gold medal for China 24 years ago. After that, China missed several chances for a fencing gold until Zhong's victory today. Luan, after her Olympic comeback performance representing Canada, said on Monday she really hoped there would be some Chinese could succeed her crown and recoup the long-awaited gold medal in fencing.
One day after, the historic mission was fulfilled by Zhong, who coincidentally came from the same eastern Jiangsu Province with Luan, and whose name was even not known by many people in the fencing circle.
Before Zhong became a fencer, he started his sports career as a mid-and-long distance runner. "I like playing basketball. Once when I was playing, a fencing coach was watching. After the game, he asked me whether I wanted to become a fencer, since my 190cm height was a big advantage. After thinking twice, I decided to transform into a fencer," he said.
He told reporters that his parents were not optmistic about his fencing career, but he himself kept going on.
Zhong's performance was hardly eye-catching before he won the Asian Championship title in Bangkok in 2008. "Zhong was pretty relaxed today, that's why he could thrive till the end," The French coach said. "Winners are those who can successfully handle the pressure."
Chiristian Bauer also attributed the success to the past two years of hard training. "Zhong has reached an outstanding, European level," said the Frenchman. His French rival also applauded him as the best fencer tonight.
Commenting on his teamates Wang Lei and Tan Xue's dissapointing performance in the Beijing Games, Zhong said they had mede their names, and were burdened with too much pressure, which is the main reason for their failure.
Even in earlier rounds, the "dark horse" has already surprised the home crowd by entering top eight, and made history by advancing to the semifinals. "The further I went, the more relaxed I became. Maybe I won the medal because I don't have so much pressure as some other people do," said the new champion, who watched TV soap opera Tuesday afternoon to relax himself.
"I clinched the gold when I was not given too much attention, which freed me from the unecessary pressure," he said.
Zhong's victory will certainly help popularize fencing sports in China as Zhong put it: "Fencing is not a popular sport in China where many people still have no idea of what fencing is. But my triumph today will help promote this sport in the country."
(Xinhua News Agency August 13, 2008)