Silver-winning Chinese skaters show tremendous courage after gruesome fall

Updated: February 13, 2006, 8:21 PM ET
Associated Press

TURIN, Italy -- Zhang Dan crashed to the ice with her legs split wide, a brutal fall that drew gasps from the crowd. She limped off the ice doubled over in pain, seemingly finished.

Stunningly, she recovered to win an Olympic silver medal.

Zhang Dan and her partner Zhang Hao of China displayed as much courage as skill Monday night in the Olympic pairs free skate.

Skating last, Zhang Dan spun awkwardly into the ice while attempting an unprecedented throw quad salchow. The skaters stopped their routine and, with Zhang Dan bent over, they struggled to the sideboards to talk to their coaches.

After gathering her composure, she asked to continue, and the event referee said yes.

The crowd roared and she even managed a slight smile.

Then the Zhangs nailed everything.

"We didn't say any words of giving up. We said we could go on," he said.

"I think it's a very valuable experience for competition," she added. "It's so important for myself because I made a mistake on the first element, but I think I can do all the other elements, so why not keep going?"

Skating's rules don't specifically deal with injuries that occur just seconds into a program. Usually, the referee tells the skaters they have two minutes to continue from the point of interruption.

No one could have expected much from Zhang and Zhang after such a gruesome mishap. No one except Zhang and Zhang.

"Gradually after we restarted, it became more clear in our mind how we could continue," he said. "We were challenging the extreme power of human beings (to handle pain)."

Four minutes later, the entire crowd was standing and cheering their effort, which gave them second place behind Russia's Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China won their second straight Olympic bronze medal. Pang Qing and Tong Jian were fourth, indicating the Chinese, not the Russians, might be the pairs power of the future.

Shen and Zhao's first competition of the season was better than anyone could have predicted. Zhao recovered incredibly fast from an August torn Achilles' tendon, and the two-time world champions were in terrific form Monday night.

On both of their throws, a triple salchow and a triple loop, she soared much higher than the boards, and their flying triple twist was immense.

"Today was very difficult, especially after these two months where I got injured," he said. "We got a good result. I am very happy about that.

"If I was not injured last August, we think we could do better. But one month ago, we were not so sure we could stand on the ice at the Olympics."

They did a lot more than stand. All of the Chinese pairs did -- and it could become a trend.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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