Magnificent seven for Chinese divers
China’s athletes won gold in seven of the eight diving events at Rio 2016, the only exception being the men’s synchronised 3m springboard, where Great Britain’s Jack Laugher and Chris Mears took the honours.
In teaming up with Shi Tingmao to land gold in the Rio 2016 women’s synchronised 3m springboard at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, China’s Wu Minxia became the first athlete to win the same Olympic diving event four times and the first to claim five Olympic titles in the sport. Taking silver 31.7 points behind the victors were Italy’s Tania Cagnotto and Francesca Dallape, with Australia’s Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith pocketing the bronze.
Those were not the only records Wu broke on a historic opening day of the diving competition. The Chinese great’s overall haul of seven medals, which also includes a gold, silver and bronze in the women’s 3m springboard, is an Olympic diving best, eclipsing the great Greg Louganis as well as her “big sister” and compatriot Guo Jingjing. At the age of 30, she also became women’s diving’s oldest Olympic champion.
Celebrating her latest triumph, Wu said: “I’m really happy to get this medal. We all hoped the Chinese divers would perform well at the Olympics. Both of us were very good today.” Revealing that she would most probably be retiring after the Rio Games, she added: “It’s not easy. It’s hard to explain how much effort you need to put into this training process. I thought about retiring before the Games, because I was injured for a month and I thought it would be a while before I could come back. It’s really hard to stay at the very highest level.”
Shi, who was enjoying her first Olympic gold, added: “I dived just how I’ve been doing in training. Wu and I have a great partnership but we made a few small mistakes. I’d give us 90 out of 100. I did the job that I was given, and now I just want to make the most of the individual competition and prove something new.”
Chen and Lin in tune
Chen Aisen and Lin Yue led from start to finish to win China’s second diving gold of Rio 2016 in the men’s synchronised 10m platform event. The pair sealed the title with the fifth of their six dives, scoring 9.5s and perfect 10s for a forward 4.5 somersault with a high degree of difficulty. Scoring 496.98 points in total, they finished a comfortable 39.87 points clear of the USA’s David Boudia and Steele Johnson in second and Great Britain’s Tom Daley and Daniel Goodfellow in third.
Having won synchronised 10m gold with Huo Liang at Beijing 2008, Lin became the first athlete to win the event twice, and such was he and Lin’s excellence that the gold never looked in doubt. “We did really well in our performance today, very stable,” he said afterwards. “We did our best, but I don’t think it was perfect.”
Boudia and Johnson sealed silver with their very last dive, with Boudia earning a second Olympic medal to go with the gold he won in the 10m platform at London 2012. Daley’s bronze was also the second of his career, the first having come in the same event four years ago.
Chen and Liu take flight
China’s Chen Ruolin and Liu Huixia followed the lead of their male compatriots to win the women’s synchronised 10m platform, a victory that took Chen’s tally of Olympic golds to five, equalling the record set two days earlier by her team-mate Wu Minxia in the synchronised 3m springboard. A synchronised 10m champion at Beijing 2008 (with Wang Xin) and London 2012 (with Wang Hao), Chen also won individual 10m gold at both those Games, though she did not compete in the event in Rio.
Taking the competition lead with their second jump, Chen and Liu amassed 354 points but were pushed all the way by Malaysia’s Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, who finished just 9.44 points adrift in second. London 2012 bronze medallists Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion of Canada held off the challenge of the British and North Korean pairs to take third place on the podium again.
“Over the past two years, I have struggled a lot and it has not been easy,” said the victorious Chen. “I have even thought about quitting the sport altogether, but in the end I’m still here. Diving has really taken a toll on my body. I had to go through a lot of conditioning to get back to how I felt before. And now, it’s like all of the pressure is gone, and I’m very relieved.” Heaping praise on her partner Liu, the veteran Chen added: “I think that she is doing very well, especially as this is her first Olympics. It’s normal for her to be nervous, but she still did very well.”
Delighted with her second place, Rinong said: “I never thought that we could win the silver medal today because the competition is very tough and all the divers from the other countries are very, very good. Equally thrilled to come away with a medal after finishing fifth in the synchronised 3m springboard, her partner Jun Hoong said: “That’s in the past now. I put that to one side and motivated myself by just looking ahead.”
Laugher and Mears win shock gold
In winning the men’s synchronised 3m springboard event, Great Britain’s Jack Laugher and Chris Mears ended Chinese hopes of completing a diving clean sweep at Rio 2016, and surprised themselves in the process.
“I’m just in complete shock really,” said a disbelieving Laugher. “I mean I’ve dreamed about this for my entire life and to come here and actually do it just feels absolutely surreal to be honest. It’s something I can’t understand and I’m struggling to get to grips with it. We did a really good performance today and we’re so happy. And it just so happens that we ended up with a gold medal.”
The British duo totalled 454.32 points, giving them the gold by a narrow 4.11 point margin from the USA’s Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon, while reigning world champions Cao Yuan and Qin Kai could finish no higher than third.
Cao and Qin led through the first two rounds and looked poised to make it four diving golds out of four for their country at Rio 2016. In failing to nail their third dive, however, they gave Laugher and Mears the chance to move into the lead. The Americans then made a late charge of their own, flawlessly executing a difficult front four-and-a-half somersault with tuck on their last dive of the competition to score a competition-best 98.04 and move ahead of the Chinese into second.
“I’m so excited,” said Hixon. “We were fourth before that dive. As soon as that dive happened, though, I was pretty sure we were a medal lock. I just didn’t know the colour.” A disappointed Qin said: “I’m not happy with our result today because we’ve put years of hard work into this.” His partner Cao added: “It isn’t what we were expecting, but that’s sport.”
Shi adds to her collection of golds
Shi Tingmao won the women’s 3m springboard to give the Chinese a fourth diving title in five events at Rio 2016 and add a second Olympic gold to the one she secured in the synchronised 3m springboard with Wu Minxia. Compatriot He Zi landed silver, just as she did in London four years earlier, while Italy’s Tania Cagnotto took third to add to the bronze she won in the synchronised event with Francesca Dallape.
The reigning individual world champion, Shi was tied with He after the first two dives, but scored a competition-best 84 points with her third to move into the lead. Her final total of 406.05 gave her victory by 18.15 points from He and made her the third woman after Wu and retired Chinese diver Guo Jingjing to win gold in both the synchronised and individual 3m springboard events. Shi’s victory also maintained China’s record of having won every individual 3m competition since Seoul 1988.
Reflecting on her performance, the 24-year-old double gold medallist admitted to having been a little below her impeccable best: “I would give myself a score of 80 today because I was very nervous. It’s the Olympic final, and wanting to win can play with your mind a little.”
There was a surprise in store for runner-up He during the medal ceremony, when boyfriend and team-mate Qin Kai, a bronze medallist in the men’s synchronised 3m springboard, pulled out an engagement ring and asked her to marry him. Taking a few seconds to gather her thoughts, a tearful He accepted his proposal. “We’ve been together for six years, but I didn’t know he would propose today and I didn’t expect to be getting married so early,” she said, proudly showing off her ring.
Cao bounces back
After partnering Qin Kai to bronze in the men’s synchronised 3m springboard, Cao Yuan gained a measure of revenge in the individual competition, beating Great Britain’s Jack Laugher to gold to earn a fifth title for Chinese diving at Rio 2016. Cao’s total of 547.6 points gave him victory by a handsome 23.7 points from his British rival, with Germany’s Patrick Hausding completing the podium.
With reigning world champion He Chao failing to progress beyond the preliminaries, Cao carried the hopes of his nation in the 12-man final. Underlining the sheer depth of talent in Chinese diving, the 21-year-old coped with the pressure admirably, taking the lead with his first dive and never looking as if he would relinquish it. After top-scoring in every round except the fifth, a jubilant Cao struggled to contain his excitement at winning gold, raising a fist to the air in celebration.
“I tried not to get too carried away because that’s the way I am,” said the champion afterwards. “I did feel pressure, but it was all about myself, and I think I was able to let go and really focus on my performance and putting on a show.”
Teenage Ren soars to gold
Fifteen-year-old Chinese diver Ren Qian scooped gold in the women’s 10m platform to become the youngest medal winner at Rio 2016. Born on 20 February 2001, Ren scored over 91 points with each of her last three dives to total 439.25 points. Taking second and third behind her were 17-year-old team-mate Si Yajie and Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito, whose bronze was her second of the Games after her third place in the synchronised 10m event.
Despite recording a competition-best 94.05 points with her third dive, Ren felt she could have performed even better. “I did pretty well, but it wasn’t perfect, based on what I expect of myself. You can consider me a perfectionist,” she said. “In terms of confidence I wasn’t feeling great, but I focused on each individual dive and I think that’s why I got the medal.” Asked as to how it felt to win gold at 15, she added: “I feel quite good about it. I’m young but I got the medal. I think I’ll train and work harder from now on so I can focus on my future.”
Ren took the honour of being the youngest medallist at Rio 2016 from Japan’s Mima Ito. Some 120 days younger than the diver, Ito had won bronze in the women’s table tennis team event two days earlier. The Chinese teenager is not the youngest ever Olympic champion in the women’s 10m platform, however. That particular record is still held by her compatriot Fu Mingxia, who was a mere 13 years and 346 days old when she won gold at Barcelona 1992.
Chen scoops gold number seven for China’s divers
Chen Aisen secured a seventh gold medal for Chinese diving at Rio 2016, winning the sport’s final event of the Games, the men’s 10m platform. Making his Olympic debut, Chen showed consistency throughout his six dives, gaining high scores with his tight spins and clean entries into the water. His total of 585.30 points gave him victory by a distance from Mexico’s Germán Sánchez and defending champion David Boudia of the USA, who took silver and bronze respectively.
Putting his feelings into words, an emotional Chen said: “I have spent more than four years training and now I earned what I worked for: the gold medal for the individual event. I never thought that I would become the champion. Maybe for the synchronised event, yes, but not for the individual one. This one was kind of a surprise.”
Recovering from a slow start, Sánchez regained his composure to win the second silver of his Olympic career, his first having come in the synchronised 10m platform at London 2012. “I only thought about what I needed to do on each dive,” said the Mexican afterwards. “I think that, even now, I’m just trying to live in the moment and enjoy myself.”