China’s Lin Shan was the standout performer in the diving competitions at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018. The 17-year-old appeared in three events and walked away with three gold medals, the last of them coming in the mixed international team event in partnership with Colombia’s Daniel Restrepo García, the winner of the men’s 3m springboard competition. Mexico’s Randal Willars Valdez claimed the other diving gold on offer, in the men’s 10m platform.
Lin impressed judges and spectators alike with her superb performances, executing her dives to perfection to earn gold in the women’s 3m springboard and 10m platform, in addition to that mixed team title. It came as a surprise to everyone, then, when she revealed that she does not feel very comfortable when preparing to dive: “I’m scared of heights. I just jump and don’t think about it.”
The Chinese diver’s golden run began in the 10m platform. First in qualifying, Lin scored modestly on her first jump but racked up the points on her final three, starting with a testing inward 3½ somersaults with tuck. Her final total of 466.50 points put her just over 60 points clear of Ukraine’s Sofiia Lyskun in second, with Mexico’s Gabriela Agundes taking the bronze with 405.55 points.
Lin landed her second gold of Buenos Aires 2018 in the 3m springboard two days later. Leading the competition from start to finish, she turned on the style to accumulate 505.50 points and win by another 60-point margin ahead of Russia’s Uliana Kliueva. The bronze went to the USA’s Bridget O’Neil, the great-niece of John Tomas O’Neil, who won Olympic rugby union gold with the United States in 1920 and 1924.
The prolific Lin completed her hat-trick in the international mixed team competition, linking up with Colombia’s Restrepo to cruise to another gold, albeit after a slow start to the event. Ninth after the first rotation, which ended with China’s Lian Junjie and Germany’s Elena Wassen atop the leaderboard, Lin and Restrepo began to work their magic on the 3m springboard and 10m platform in the second round of dives. After moving into the lead, they sealed victory in the final rotation, finishing on 391.35 points to beat Lian and Wassen to the gold by 1.25 points, with the Russian/Ukrainian duo of Ruslan Ternovoï and Lyskun completing the podium on 371.15.
Latin American divers on top
The first men’s title of the YOG went to Mexico’s Willars in the 10m platform, a victory that owed much to a wonderful fourth dive, a superbly executed back 3½ somersaults with pike that brought him 97.20 points. The 16-year-old Mexican’s five dives earned him 609.80 points, 9.75 more than silver medallist Lian, with Ternovoï a further 3.20 points back. “I want to enjoy and celebrate this medal now, and then go back to Mexico to train more and win more medals,” said Willars afterwards. “I have to train more because there are always some mistakes. I have to work on them because I’m not always going to be at the same level. I know I have the talent, technique, training and ability.”
In the men’s 3m springboard, China’s Lian qualified in first place only to score 0 points for a disastrous first dive. He eventually placed tenth in a competition won by pre-event favourite Restrepo, who was rewarded for his consistency over his five dives. The reigning world junior champion and his country’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, the Colombian saved the best till last, a forward 4½ somersaults with tuck awarded 93.10 points by the judges. His total of 559.50 gave him victory by four points ahead of Great Britain’s Anthony Harding. Ternovoï took the bronze.
“It was incredibly moving being on the podium; I was really happy to be able to get there,” said an emotional Restrepo afterwards. “I think everyone feels pressure, I’m not the only one, but I felt it especially because I’m the flagbearer and after doing so well in the World Championships. But I knew I had to keep my feet on the ground and stay focused and humble. There are a lot of sacrifices and hard work: training a lot and eating healthily, saying ‘no’ when my friends ask me to go and party with them. But these sacrifices are worth it. It keeps you away from vices and bad influences, and it keeps you healthy too.”
Lin and Restrepo were not the only multiple diving medallists at Buenos Aires 2018. Ternovoï collected three bronzes, Lyskun a silver and a bronze, and Lian picked up two silvers – not that the Chinese diver was pleased with his haul. “I am very disappointed,” he said. “I came here to win gold and I’m not happy with these two medals. When I go back to China I’m going to train harder than ever so I can taste victory.” Lian will not be the only young diver returning home from the Argentinian capital with that objective in mind.