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China cool-headed over historic win in Universiade figure skating
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China sweeps top places in pairs' and men's figure skating at the Winter Universiade to be the biggest winner of the four-day events, which concluded on Tuesday.

Japanese Yukari Nakano, Israeli pair Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski, and team Sweden shared the rest three gold medals of women's skating, ice dance and synchronized skating, with top favorites led all the way, leaving no chances for dark horses.

As for host China, top favorites Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao undoubtedly dominated the pairs', producing magical displays in both the short program and free skate to post an overwhelming 195.32 scores.

The Olympic silver medalists took a significant advantage to win the pairs' title, nearly 50 points well ahead of second-placed Russian duo Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert.

With the third consecutive victory at the Universiade, the Zhangs seemed to gradually get back into their peak shape towards next year's Winter Olympics.

"The gold medal of the Universiade brings more confidence for us in preparing for the Olympics," said Zhang Hao, who vowed to snatcha long-awaited Olympic gold with partner Zhang Dan in 2010 Vancuvor Games.

Besides the pairs' supremacy, China also claimed an unprecedented men's title as dark horse Xu Ming mounted from 6th place after previous day's short program to the top.

In front of home fans, the 27-year-old, champion of the 2007 Asian Winter Games, staged a flawless free skate to capture what he called a "surprising" gold medal.

"I am thrilled, I couldn't be more excited," said Xu after winning the first-ever gold for China in the history of the Universiade.

Not only Xu's own hard efforts but also disappointing shows of other strong rivals contributed to Xu's unexpected victory.

Alban Preaubert from France and Kristoffer Berntsson from Sweden, who stood fifth and eighth at the 2009 European Figure Skating Championships, were previously believed to be strongest gold contenders in men's events.

However, Preaubert, who led the previous short program, stunned the audience with several errs in the free skate, leaving the first place to the Chinese Xu. Berntsson even dropped out of the podium.

"Xu's victory was great encouragement for the country's men's skating event. However, China should stay clear-headed for the gold," said Yang Dong, a senior official of the Competition Committee of the Universiade.

"Xu performed his personal best in men's event, but his overall 179.96 scores was far from the world record of over 250 points," he added. The absence of world top skaters from the Universiade was referred as another reason for China's victory in the men's event.

The Universiade figure skating competitions consist of five events, namely, men's, women's and pairs' skating, ice dance and synchronized skating, drawing 204 participants from 26 countries and regions.

It is worth mentioning that synchronized skating was set as a competitive event for the first time at the Winter Universiade.

During the brand-new extravaganza, team Sweden, involving 20 lady athletes, staged a spectacular group show to wow the ecstatic capacity of crowd, and captured the first-ever gold.

"It is really exciting to appreciate the team sport for the first time at the Universiade," said Marie Lundmark, figure skating chair of the International Technical Commission of the International University Sports Federation (FISU). She called on more countries to participate in the event in the next Universiade.

(Xinhua News Agency Feburary 25, 2009)

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