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Smiling geniuses on the ice
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Zhang Dan (R) and Zhang Hao were happy with their performance in the pairs figure skating of the Harbin Winter Universiade.

Zhang Dan (R) and Zhang Hao were happy with their performance in the pairs figure skating of the Harbin Winter Universiade.

By Huang Shan
China.org.cn staff reporter in Harbin

China's Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao continued their reign in pairs figure skating at the Winter Universiade by claiming a third consecutive title on Sunday.

The pair led all the way, to finish with a final score of 195.32 points. The relief on their faces after the competition was clear, as "their" gold had been counted in China's medal tally before the Universiade even began. "I'm satisfied with my performance today, but I did make one minor error," said Zhang Dan calmly. "It was a pleasure to win the gold medal in our hometown."

"But the gold was not our only goal here. We were more competitive than our opponents today, and we also wanted to put on a brilliant show for the audience," said Zhang Dan.

Zhang Hao, on the other hand, was more excited, clapping his hands like a schoolboy as he received his congratulations. "Thank you, thank you," he nodded.

The young man felt that the victory was a big boost to a frustrating year in 2008 for the duo, as they had lost to another Chinese pair, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, in most of the international competitions.

"No couple can always be at their best. There are ups and downs," said Zhang Hao. "Frustration sometimes helps us to make progress, and every time we experience frustration we come out of it more determined. Actually, I don't think last year was so bad. If we had fallen out of the top ten, I might say it was bad. But we still ranked in the top three," he laughed. "Does that make me sound conceited?"

The pair, both students of Harbin Institute of Physical Education, admitted they spend less time on studying than training. "Undoubtedly, most of our time is devoted to training, but we still try our best to study our books," said Zhang Dan. "We have a private teacher."

When asked if they were a "couple", like veteran skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, Zhang Hao issued an immediate denial. "No – I treat Dan like a little sister. I have many female friends," he joked.

The pair also treated the Universiade as a preparation for next year's Winter Olympics. "We don't plan to increase the difficulty of our routines. We will work on consistency of performance," said Zhang Hao.

(China.org.cn February 23, 2009)

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