Is 2011 the year of China’s Grand Slam?

Shanghai 2011 - Diving

credit: Giorgio ScalaThe 1m women’s competition has never been so successful for China as the other diving events. Considering the whole history of this event (since FINA World Championships in 1991) the Chinese divers won the gold title three times. In five other editions, the victory was captured by other hands. Or “by other legs”.

This expression really reflects the main idea of 1m springboard: if the diver wants to be successful, he must have (besides the perfect technique) very strong legs. Otherwise the dives never look impressive. Women's diving at 1m is never so difficult as men's, but diving ladies have their own advantage.

When 1m competition got its first international recognition it became clear that not every male diver was able to compete at this height. Some of the world leaders were so big, strong and pressed the springboard with so much power, that the flexible metal board touched the water surface. If this happens, the springboard looses its ability to push the diver to the air as high as it could be done with the higher springboard.

Concerning female diving such problem never existed. For the world leaders, 1m is just one more possibility to win a medal. And maybe a chance to beat Chinese athletes.

The preliminary round however didn't leave the impression that it could be possible. Wang Han took a lead with 11.95 over her compatriot Shi Tingmao and Sharleen Stratton (AUS) got the third position (12 points behind the second Chinese).

It was a kind of surprise to see Anastasia Pozdnyakova (RUS) in the second position after three rounds (out of five) in the final. She had finished 8th in the preliminaries. At the same time, there were also some surprises for other divers: the strongest European representatives looked poor. Tania Cagnotto (ITA) – the reigning European champion at this event finished 12th in the preliminaries and hardly made the final. There is, however, an explanation: last May 19, Tania had a car accident (she was driving her motorcycle) and broke her wrist. Then she had a successful surgery but was convinced to miss a lot of practice and several competitions that were planned.

The other 1m European champion, Anna Lindberg (SWE), missed two years of competition because she had a baby after the Beijing Games, and concluded 5th in the preliminaries.

The fourth final round turned to be a nightmare for Pozdnyakova – she badly missed the entry and ended her 2.5 Reverse pike almost flat. As she later explained, the run to the end of the board was too quick and she took a wrong point to push up. Anyway, her one-metre game was over.

After this round, Wang Han and Shi Tingmao were keeping the confident leadership ant third place looked vacant for at least four divers: Tania Cagnotto, her compatriot Maria Marconi, Nadezhda Bazhina (RUS) and Abby Johnston (USA).

Cagnotto had first starting position so she finished the competition first with 295.45. Probably that was easier for her – to perform the last attempt without knowing the results of the others, just doing her best. Bazhina – the daughter of the legendary diver of the 1970s Irina Kalinina – missed the entry and made clear that she would not be on the podium. Lindberg delivered a perfect execution of a 305B but there were some mistakes in her previous dives. Marconi and Johnston were also less successful than Cagnotto.

And it wasn't necessary to wait the end of the competition to be sure who would finally capture the gold and silver.

Men’s 3m springboard synchro

A few minutes after the medal ceremony where Qin Kai and Luo Yutong got their gold medals and brought sixth gold for China (with four events to go, the possibility of a Grand Slam of 10 gold medals for China is a real possibility) they got a question on the press conference from one of the journalists: “The Russians showed an outstanding performance in the last round. Was it the reason why you made a mistake in your last dive?”

The answer from the champions was that diving is a kind of unpredictable sport with a great number of strong rivals, and that everything can happen to everybody – all these words divers use to say when commenting the competition. But the question was very good and had a great sense. Russian duo Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov finished their performance with a very difficult combination – 4.5 Forward tuck with 3.8 Degree of difficulty (DD). They got excellent marks for execution and 100.32 for this dive – more than any other duo in this final. 

China - Credit: Giorgio Scala

When someone gets such a high score it is normally impossible to the next diver to keep concentration. That was the case with Qin Kai and Luo Yutong. Their advantage over the Russian team before the last dive was of 30.24 but decreased after the final attempt to 12.09.

Kuznetsov and Zakharov were happy and upset at the same time with the silver medal: “If we knew that we had a real opportunity to come so close to the Chinese divers we would have tried to do our best at every dive from the beginning of our programme, - said Ilya. But now we can say that some of our dives could really be better. It was a lack of concentration and we’re sorry about that.

Yahel Castillo and Julian Sanchez (MEX) finished third and qualified to the 2012 Olympic Games in London (GBR).

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