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Thursday, August 30, 2001, updated at 23:13(GMT+8)

China Achieves Unprecedented Victory in Universiade Fencing

China has achieved an unprecedented victory in fencing competition at universiades, winning five golds, three silvers and three bronzes at the 21st World University Games.

Although half of fencers who are ranked among the world's top 32 in foil, epee and sabre participated in the universiade competition, Chinese fencers showed their teeth against those outstanding athletes from traditional European fencing strengths.

The 28-year-old Dong Zhaozhi obtained China's first individual fencing title at universiades. Before that, the country's star swordswoman Luan Jujie led the Chinese team to win a team foil title in 1983 in Edmonton, Canada.

Dong started the Chinese fencing team's gold rush at the games. Yang Shaoqi, a veteran of bronze medalist of women's team epee at Sydney Olympics 2000, clinched both the individual and team golds this time.

Led by Olympic silver medalists Dong Zhaozhi and Wang Haibin, the Chinese team won men's team foil fencing.

In addition, together with another two Chinese swordswomen, Meng Jie, who lost the individual title to world No. 1 foil fencer Valentina Vezzali of Italy, revenged herself on Vezzali for getting the team title.

China's unexpected victory also lay in women's sabre, which has yet to be an Olympic event. The 17-year-old Bao Yingying crashed into semi-finals of the women's individual sabre fencing and finally got a bronze in the competition.

Bao, who began practicing sabre fencing only two years ago, also helped the Chinese team to get silver of women's team sabre. They themselves could hardly believe their successful march at the universiade because eight of the world's top ten women sabre fencers joined the competition.

Wang Jian, manager of China's national fencing team, said that courage and confidence of the Chinese fencers made them reach the unexpected win.

"They were asked to fight the foreign fencers boldly and wisely, and they must try all out to overcome rivals," Wang said.

"It was the first time for me to take part in an international sports event, so I cherished the chance and give out my utmost strength," said the fledgling Bao.

The traditional powerhouses in fencing might feel a little bit depressed. Russia, Italy and France shared the rest seven golds.

Russia showed their ability in men's and women's sabre fencing. The world No. 2 sabre fencer Sergej Charikov won the individual title and helped Russia get the gold of men's team sabre. A handful of prestigious women fencers such as sixth-ranked Elena Netchaeva and tenth Natalia Makeeva made the Russian team unbeatable in the women's team sabre.

Italy defended its leadership in foil fencing. Its Olympic heroine Vezzali undoubtedly obtained the gold of women's individual foil. Owing to a contentious touch in the team final with China, Vezzali and her teammates lost the team title to the Chinese swordswomen.

Matthieu Denis from France, who is currently ranked 93rd by the International Fencing Federation, remained a dark horse in men's individual and team epee competition. Denis got France's first gold at the universiade on August 25.

Ukraine and Estonia were also on the medal tally of fencing competition, with the former obtaining two silvers and two bronzes and the latter two bronzes.

However, Switzerland and Spain, which are rich in outstanding fencers, might feel heart-broken at the university games by only winning one bronze each.

The saddest could be Germany, which sent a high-profile group to the games including world No. 1 epee swordsman Jorg Fiedler and seventh Daniel Strigel. Unfortunately, they took nothing but friendship back home from Beijing.

Roch Rene, president of the International Fencing Federation, said that he was satisfied with the fencing competition this time for viewing more countries and regions had ability to winning medals.

The federation planned to further popularize the sport throughout the world, Rene said.

Although Chinese fencers made great performance at the games, China is yet confronted with arduous work for spreading fencing among the Chinese people.

Wang Jian said that the Chinese national team plans to open their training center to amateur fencers in Beijing.

China also projects to invite outstanding foreign coaches to help Chinese mend their weak points in fencing, such as epee and sabre, Wang said.

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China has achieved an unprecedented victory in fencing competition at universiades, winning five golds, three silvers and three bronzes at the 21st World University Games.

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