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Han Xiaopeng Enjoys Being Darkest Horse
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Han Xiaopeng said he was the darkest horse after winning the Olympic gold medal Thursday in the men's freestyle skiing aerials final.

"I never thought this would happen," said the 22-year-old Han, who burst into ecstasy after the medals were decided.

"I feel like I'm in a dream."

Han, who had never won a World Cup event before the Turin Games, produced two almost flawless jumps for the highest combined score to upset a field of big names including current World Cup leader Kyle Nissen of Canada and Belarus'Alexei Girshin, the bronze medalist at the last Games in Salt Lake City.

China ended its winter Olympics gold draught at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 when Yang Yang (A) took two short track speed skating titles.

But Han's gold was the country's first on the snow.

"I was so happy to win China its first ever Olympic gold medal in snow sports," said the student at the Shenyang Sports Institutein northeast China's Liaoning Province.

Han was formerly an acrobat but switched to aerials in 1995 after Yang Er'qi spotted his potential in the sport that requires agility and courage.

"I think the men's aerials is designed for China and I'm happy to be the one to make it a reality," he said.

Han, however, almost quit the sport after tearing his knee ligament months before the Salt Lake City Games, where he eventually finished 24th.

"I was hopeless at that time, but my family and the coach stood firmly behind me, helping me through the difficult time," he recalled.

Han already made history on Monday when he, along with teammate Qiu Sen, became the first Chinese men to qualify for an Olympic freestyle aerials final. He was thus described as a dark horse by the Chinese media.

Han seemed to enjoy the title very much.

"I am the darkest horse," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency February 24, 2006)

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