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Chinese Pair Deliver Gutsy Performance
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Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao claimed China's first-ever Olympic figure skating silver medal along with a gold for courage on Monday following a display of bravery seldom seen on an ice rink.

The last couple to step onto the Palavela ice and the last skaters with a chance at ending Russia's 42-year domination of the pairs event, Zhang and Zhang got their routine off to flying start only to have it come all undone with a spectacular spill that drew gasps from the sellout crowd.

Attempting the rarely seen quadruple Salchow, Zhang Dan landed in the splits and had to stop after sliding into the boards.

Struggling to her skates, Zhang Dan was helped off the ice by her partner and after consulting with coaches and officials the 20-year-old gingerly returned to the ice five minutes later.

The pair continued their skate to the thundering approval of the crowd.

"We are challenging the extreme limits of what a human being can do," said Dan Zhang. "I had to turn four revolutions in the air and a huge distance and then I hit the boards.

"You can only imagine how painful that would be.

"We were still empty in our minds. When the music started again we didn't know where to start our elements but we gave a gesture and then we carried on.

"Gradually after we restarted we became more-and-more clear in our minds how to do these elements.

"We wanted to go on."


Their gutsy performance was not enough to prevent the brilliant Russian pair of Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin from capturing Russia's 12th consecutive gold medal in the event but their display was more than enough to win the admiration of the crowd and their fellow skaters.

By the time they came out to receive their silver medal, Zhang's left leg was heavily bandaged and she had an ice pack taped to her knee.

The plucky skater, however, still managed to limp around a victory lap to even more applause.

Zhang Dan said she was advised by the doctor that she go to the hospital for further examination.

The Russian pair also has first-hand experience of the dangers pairs skaters face.

A little more than a year ago, Totmianina fell head first onto the ice from a high lift during competition and was heavily concussed and taken to the hospital.

"Skating is dangerous but so many bad falls happen in practise, so people don't necessarily know how dangerous it is," said Totmianina. "It's not just people holding hands, skating around and having feelings.

"Now that you see a fall you start appreciate how difficult it is."

(Reuters via China Daily February 14, 2006)

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