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24 Aug 2004
Athens 2004

Perfect Peng springs to top of podium

The men's springboard diving competition in Athens developed into a fascinating three-way battle. Going into the final round Russia's Dimitri Sautin led the way, with China's Peng Bo and the Canadian Alexandre Despatie close behind. It seemed clear that the medals would go to these three athletes but it remained anyone’s guess as to who would get which colour.

With just a couple of points separating the trio after the semi-final, few expected that any of them would manage to carve out a significant advantage. However, that was to change as Peng went on to produce one of the greatest diving displays ever seen.

The Chinese diver started the final round with a score of 84.60 for his opening dive, which was enough to take him into the overall lead. But it was his second dive that caused a sensation. Peng conjured up a forward 3.5 somersault with a 3.1 degree of difficulty – it was a stunningly complex dive and it was, performed to perfection.

The Athens crowd immediately stood, cheered and applauded, knowing they had witnessed something truly special. But how would the judges, who are trained to spot the slightest of imperfections that elude the gaze of normal fans, react?

Five of the seven judges ruled that Peng’s dive had been quite simply immaculate, awarding him the perfect score of 10.0. The other two gave 9.5, leaving the Chinese star with an overall score of 92.07.

Sautin actually beat that in the next round, albeit thanks to a higher tariff dive rather than better scores from the judges. Meanwhile, Despatie mistimed his dive to drop back into third. As the competition went on, the Canadian gradually made up that deficit to return into silver medal position ahead of Sautin, but they were both left standing by Peng's brilliance, as dive after dive, the Chinese athlete racked up scores of 9.0, 9.5 and yet another 10.0. His fifth round score of 96.6 was clearly the highest of the competition and he ended up winning the gold medal by more than 30 points. His one and only appearance at the Olympic Games had been one to cherish.

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