YOG Singapore 2010, Day 8: Jiao Liu (CHN) wins first diving event and local hero Myra Lee gives a lesson of courage

Youth Olympic Games

China’s Jiao Liu was the first diving winner of these Youth Olympic Games, by earning the gold in the women’s 10m platform, at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, in a spectacular outdoor (and night) action, on this Saturday. Liu started to construct her brilliant victory in the preliminaries of the event, when she finished first, and carried forward to the final the second best points of the heats – the final result of the divers comprised the marks of the four dives with limited DD (Degree of Difficulty) from the heats, with the four dives of the final (without limit of DD).

Liu started the decisive stage of the competition with 189.35 and got the title with 479.60, after performing three good dives (the first, third and fourth) in the final, and one not so successful (the second one, an inward 3 ½ somersault (DD 3.2). Otherwise, she had always marks between 7.5 and 9, with her best dive being a back 2 ½ somersault 1 ½ twists (DD 3.2). Liu only lost the lead of the event after the second dive of the final (her weakest one) – at that moment, Pandelela Pamg (MAS) executed very well the same combination not so well performed by the Chinese diver and got the provisional first place with 327.10 (against Liu’s 323.75).

Then, the key for the final outcome happened when Malaysian star (she earned the first medal at a FINA World Championships for her country, when she finished third in the 10m platform synchro in Rome 2009) chose a simpler dive than Liu (a DD 2.7, while Liu executed a DD 3.3). Pamg got better marks than the Chinese, but a lower score as the DD was inferior. That gave the lead to Liu, who then just had to perform well her last DD 3.2 diver (Pamg selected a DD 2.9 to conclude her final).

Jiao Liu (CHN) - credit: SPH-Syogoc/Liu Lihang

If these two divers were somehow the favourites for the gold and silver award, more expectation surrounded the bonze medal. In the heats, Ji Hyang Sin (PRK) was the best of the preliminaries in the dives with limited DD (193.35); this circumstance became a decisive factor for getting the bronze medal. In fact, Sin had a worse final than Annika Lenz (from USA, who finished fourth), but this advantage from the heats (Lenz carried forward 163.05), plus the fact that the American had a 2.5 dive in her programme (while Sin had, as a minimum DD 3.0), gave the third place to the representative of DPR of Korea.

It was Liu’s second win in this venue, after her 2009 triumph in the Youth Asian Games. "It's not easy by any standard (to win in the same pool)," Liu said. "The first medal was competing against Asia and now it's on the international stage." Pamg, who had been the best at the Qualifying Event for the Games, considered that her silver medal was a surprise taking into account a recent injury. "I suffered a neck injury three weeks ago during training and I changed my dives because of that," she said. "I'm not so confident in my entry. But I just keep remembering my coach saying to think about the dive and not the pain. He said, 'After you finish the dives, you can rest.'"

The women's 10m platform podium: Pamg (MAS), Liu (CHN) and Sin (PRK)
credit: SPH-Syogoc/Liu Lihang

An example of courage was also given by Singapore’s hero Myra Jia Wen Lee. Finishing 12th and last from the preliminaries, she had a very difficult seventh dive in this stage, aggravating an existing hyper-extended back injury. After being submitted to an x-ray, the Singaporean diver was given clearance by the doctors to compete in the final, but things weren’t easy for Lee in the decisive event. “It was difficult because I couldn’t arch my back," Lee admitted. "Three of the four dives I was completing for the final required me to arch my back, and I couldn’t get much height (off the platform)." But, with the support of the family and friends, she was able to complete her programme. “My friends bought a lot of tickets and my mum bought a couple of tickets and gave them away to family, relatives and friends. I saw their faces smiling at me (from the top of the platform), and it made me feel more relaxed." Needless to say that Lee finished in 12th but gave in Singapore, at home, a lesson of courage and determination.

This first diving event (as well as the following three final of the programme) was highlighted by innovative aspects in terms of the show surrounding the competition. A water curtain was used to “project” the name and the flags of the participating athletes, while “water drums” were used to animate spectators, athletes and officials before the medal ceremony.

Singapore's Myra Lee - credit: SPH-Syogoc/Liu Lihang

The next event of these Games is the men’s 3m springboard, where the star will be Tom Daley, from Great Britain. Suffering from an injury in the tricep, the 10m platform 2009 World champion decided to skip his pet event and compete only from the lower board. Being one of the athletes that is receiving more attention from the media in Singapore, here are some of his most interesting quotes of the past days:

"I'm gutted I can't compete in my strongest event."

"I've only trained once or twice for the 3m (springboard). It is not my strongest, but I look forward to it because it is a fun event."

"In Beijing, I was the little brother to everyone. Here (in Singapore) I am one of the experienced people. It's weird but I've been able to pass on the experiences I've had."

"I am glad I did the Beijing experience. If I'd gone to London 2012 without coming there, I think it may have been overwhelming."

"Well, I wasn't really aware I was in the media here. It was kind of weird that volunteers were coming up asking for pictures and I didn't know diving was big here in Singapore."

"I hope I don't fall off the board."

"I don't think I can compete for a medal. I would be very surprised if I did."

"The 3m is good for rehab and being able to move it (the injured tricep), making sure it isn't tightening up. As long as I'm back in the pool doing stuff and pain-free, I'll be able to compete. I will dive steadily and see what happens. I've just had enough time to compete."

"Exams are equally as important. When I finish diving I will have to get a job. Injury can be just around the corner and you have to a back-up plan."

"I would like to get into TV presenting or work in the media in some way."