Tennis has Maria Sharapova, figure skating has Yuna Kim, but the diving star going into the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 was unquestionably home favourite Guo Jingjing. Guo had already cemented her place in the hearts of the Chinese by grabbing double gold in Athens in 2004. She dominated the 3m springboard event, and doubled up with Wu Minxia for another command performance in the synchronised.
She completed the 3m springboard and synchronised double for a fourth consecutive world championship title at Melbourne’s Albert Park in 2007 and went into Beijing as one of the hottest favourites for gold in any event.
The Chinese crowd packed into the iconic Water Cube diving and swimming arena hoping for a rousing home success, and the impeccable Guo did not let them down.
She led from the preliminary rounds all the way through to the final dive of the competition. In fact the only surprise was that her team mate and synchro partner Wu Minxia was edged into bronze by an outstanding display of consistency from Russia’s Julia Pakhalina.
Dive after dive saw Guo rip into the water, producing whoops of delight from the partisan home crowd. Her final dive completed, rivals and coaches all dashed to congratulate the finest diver of her generation.
Guo and Wu teamed up for a crushing win in the synchronised 3m springboard event as China collected seven of the eight gold medals on offer in the 2008 competition.