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Thirteen-year-old Mingxia Fu of China won her first Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona with a leap from the ten-metre diving board. Olympic history followed Mingxia’s drop to the water; she became the youngest ever Olympic Champion and the international governing body of the sport ruled divers must be at least fourteen to compete in future Games.
Born in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province, Mingxia was taught to swim in the local river by her father Yijun. She took up gymnastics at the age of 5 before switching to the sport of diving. She left home at 9 to train in the Chinese capital, Beijing and by 12 she was World Champion, the youngest in any sport ever.
So young and so successful, Mingxia Fu had a glittering future ahead of her after Barcelona and she jumped at it. Double Olympic Gold followed four years later at the Atlanta Games in 1996. She retained her title from the ten-metre platform and went on to take the three-metre springboard medal as well. That win made Mingxia the first woman to secure victory in both diving disciplines at an Olympic Games since Germany’s Ingrid Kraemer at Rome in 1960.
Having reached the top of her sport, China’s diving superstar retired from competition aged just 17 and enrolled in a Beijing collage to study economics. She managed just two years before returning to the pool, citing her love for the sport and a concern that she was “getting fat” as reasons for her come-back.
Nine years after Barcelona and that record breaking ten- metre dive into international fame, China’s youngest-ever Olympic Champion, now a relative veteran at 22, claimed her third title at the Sydney Games in 2000. She again won the three-metre springboard gold and took silver at the same height in the synchronized diving event with Guo Jingjing.