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Turin 2006

A throw quadruple Salchow for Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao!

While Tatyana Totmyanina and Maksim Marinin were taking gold, the battle for the other medals was a three-way contest between three Chinese couples. Among them, Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, the only couple in the competition who had ever beaten the Russians.

Despite their similar names, the two skaters are not related, but they had known each other since childhood. Zhang and Zhang stared competing together before they were even teenagers. By the time they were 15 years old, they were junior world champions, had come second in the Chinese national title and had performed a jump, called the quadruple twist, that had never been performed at the junior worlds.

Their transition to the senior ranks was not a surprise, and brought immediate success – placing 6th in their first crack at the world championships. By the time of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, they were clearly contenders.

They knew the contest would be difficult. Totmyanina and Marinin were the favourites coming into the Turin Games and held the lead after the short programme. But Zhang and Zhang had a surprise up their sleeves, one that carried the promise of spectacle, but also the threat of danger.

They decided to try something extraordinary to close the gap – a highly challenging jump known as the throw quadruple Salchow. Named after the skater Ulrich Salchow, the single version had first been performed in 1909 and got a maiden airing at the Olympic Games in 1920. The double Salchow appeared in the 1920s while the triple Salchow was first landed at the 1955 World Championships.

But the throw quadruple Salchow was a much more recent invention. It had been seen rarely and had never been landed in international competition. To try it in this, the biggest competition of their lives, was bold and adventurous.

It did not come off. Zhang Dan soared into the air but couldn't land as she returned to the ice. The audience of 8,500 gasped. Few thought they could possibly continue but remarkably, the pair returned to the ice, recovered their poise and, cheered on by the audience, completed their routine with panache. Zhang Dan courageously landed a triple Salchow after returning to the ice. The pair impressed the judges enough to retain second place; from the Turin audience, they got a tumultuous standing ovation.

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