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28 Sep 2000
Sydney 2000

Fu retains springboard title after retirement u-turn

At the tender age of 22, China's Fu Mingxia was already an Olympic veteran going into Sydney 2000, her third Olympic Games. In 1992, aged just 13, she had won the platform in Barcelona, a triumph she repeated in Atlanta in 1996. At both those editions of the Games, she also won gold in the springboard competition, but had then retired from the sport to study economics at university.

However, like so many athletes before her, she found retirement to be a frustrating experience. Two years later, halfway through the Olympic cycle, she came out of retirement to prepare for the Sydney Games, intent on defending her springboard title.

In the intervening years, though, China had discovered a new female diving sensation - Guo Jingjing. The battle between the two compatriots turned out to be an utterly engrossing contest.

Guo beat Fu five times in the run-up to the 2000 Olympics, prompting speculation that the defending champion would never recover her best form. Guo knew better, seeing signs that Fu was gradually returning to her best, and shortly before Sydney the two rivals agreed to pair up to take part in the synchronised springboard event.

With much less time for preparation than some of their rivals, they still finished in second place. Whatever would happen in the individual event, at least they were both now guaranteed a silver medal. But, of course, both really wanted to go back to China with a gold.

Guo held the early advantage in the individual competition, with a lead of 8.4 points from the semi-final.

She carried on building on that lead, which stood at 10.83 points after the second round of dives. While the two Chinese divers were clearly ahead of the rest of the field, it appeared as if Fu would have to be content with another silver.

But then came a quite stunning fight-back. Fu produced a wonderful dive in the third round to cut nearly five points out of her rival's lead. Now it was obvious that Fu was diving at her best, and that Guo would have to produce something special to maintain her lead.

Into the fourth round of diving and Fu once again produced the most successful dive, with a score of 80.10. Guo earned 72.54 points, thereby relinquishing her overall lead. With a round to go, Fu had responded to adversity with remarkable resolve to take top position in the standings. But, with Fu just a couple of points ahead, there was still time for Guo to produce one last decisive dive and hope that her rival then made some sort of error.

Instead, it was Fu who, once again, produced a faultless dive. For the third time in three rounds, her dive received the highest score, while Guo's was only joint fifth best in the round. Two years after retiring, Fu retained her springboard title, before retiring again for good.

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