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Updated: Thu, 31 May 2012 19:49:38 GMT | By pa.press.net

Ukraine: Olga Kharlan

Born: 04/09/1990


Olga Kharlan celebrates an historic fencing victory for Ukraine at Beijing 2008. (© Press Association)

Olga Kharlan celebrates an historic fencing victory for Ukraine at Beijing 2008.

Born: 04/09/1990

Place of birth: Mykolaiv, Ukraine

Event: Fencing

Previous Olympics: 1

Previous medals: 1

Olga Kharlan became the heroine of Ukrainian sport and turned fencing into front-page news when she inspired her country to a dramatic sabre team gold at the Beijing Olympics.

The then 17-year old scored more than half of the 45 points necessary to claim a staggering comeback win over a Chinese team who were urged on by a mass of expectant home fans.

Kharlan and her two team-mates, Olga Zhovnir and Olena Khomrova, found themselves down and almost out, trailing 25-15 in the women's team final against the passionately supported hosts and favourites.

But, led by a stunning individual display from Kharlan, the Ukrainians fought back to level at 44-44.

Kharlan and China's Tan Xue - the 1992 world champion and individual silver medallist in the sabre at the Athens Games four years previously - went up against each other in the decider. Both lunged simultaneously and each let out a cry of victory but the referee, unable to decide between them despite video replays, decided that the point should be replayed.

The Ukrainian teenager held her nerve and landed the winning point, silencing the passionate Chinese crowd and becoming a national sporting icon.

"The huge desire we had to win prevented us from leading at the beginning," she explained afterwards. "But after that we found we had nothing to lose.

"I knew it was a pretty difficult situation, but I was very confident that I could win. I wasn't nervous - I fenced in a very relaxed, kind of freestyle way."

Karlan went on to be chosen as Sportswoman of the Year at Ukraine's Heroes of the 2008 Sports Year awards and famously appeared with fellow 'golden girls' Zhovnir and Khomrova in a tasteful but revealing glamour photo shoot for Ukrainian men's magazine XXL.

She originally took up dancing but financial constraints caused her to switch to fencing "because it was free".

Karlan's godfather - top fencing coach Anatoly Shlikar - took her under his guidance and her first major success was claiming silver at the 2006 European Seniors Fencing Championships in Turkey.

Since Beijing, she has won team gold at the 2009 World Championships and twice taken both individual and team gold at European Championships events.

That success at the Olympics four years ago still ranks as the high point of her career. But now she is ready to write a new chapter in her remarkable story.