Shen/Zhao's Olympic hope in danger after Zhao injured

Chinese figure skating pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo's participation in next year's Turin Winter Olympics is in jeopardy after Zhao broke his Achilles tendon during a practice session last Friday.

Zhao's old injury recurred while he was doing a triple-triple jump during the altitude training in South China's Yunnan province, officials at the China Figure Skating Association told Xinhua on Tuesday.

He was sent back to Beijing immediately and underwent an operation the next day.

"The operation went well, but he still need three months to take the ice, and one or two more months to do jumps," coach Yao Bin said.

With only six months to go before the Turin Games, Zhao's injury is definitely a heavy blow to the two-time world champions,who are eager to snatch their first-ever Olympic gold medal.

But Yao said they would cooperate closely with doctors to ensure that Zhao could recover in time for the Olympics.

With the new cracking, Shen/Zhao would cancel all the competitions before the Turin Games, including the 10th National Games of China scheduled for October.

Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao and Pang Qing/Tong Jian, Chinese two burgeoning pairs also coached by Yao, would not be affected by theincident, said Yao.

Shen and Zhao, who became China's first-ever pair skating worldchampion in 2002, are the most successful Chinese pair with their impressive lifts and throws.

In 1998, they became only the third Chinese pair in history to compete at the Olympics, placing fifth. They have won two Grand Prix Final events, and have stood on the podium at the last five World Championships, winning in 2002 and 2003.

Olympic gold medal is Shen/Zhao's last dream since their best Olympic outing was a bronze at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, where a judging scandal spoiled the event.

However, Zhao's chronic foot problem has affected them a lot. Although starting last season successfully with three Grand Prix wins and also the final winner of the tournament, they were forcedto withdraw from this year's Russia World Championships and the Four Continents Championships.

Zhao, who refused to receive any interview, is still in the hospital and expected to be discharged within the week.

He hopes another miracle will happen on ice.

"I won't give up and I still hope to stand on the Olympic pool next February. I will carry on the fighting spirit like my partnerShen at the 2003 World Championships, when she was also badly injured," Zhao told Yao.

At the 2003 Worlds, Shen blocked her injured ankle and showed aflawless performance with Zhao in Washington D.C. to defend their world title successfully with four full marks from the judges.

Source: Xinhua

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