London 2012, Day 1: Qin Kai/Luo Yutong (CHN) win 3m synchro

London 2012 Diving

The newly built Olympic Aquatics Centre provided the backdrop to spectacular performances on the first day of the 18th FINA Visa Diving World Cup in London. According to ex-Russian and now Great Britain national coach Alexey Evangulov, the pool is ready since November but none of the British divers had a possibility to practice here till February. The host team entered the pool just two days before the competition – like all other World Cup participants.

Let's remind that the other four places are reserved already by the host country (Great Britain) and the three medallist teams from the last FINA World Championships in Shanghai (China, Russia and Mexico). So there are two important stages in this event: first, to join the final group of 12 participants, and second, to get the ticket to the Olympics.

On day 1, 40 participants competed in the women's 10m platform preliminary. The event's biggest sensation was Chinese Yadan Hu, World silver medallist and 2010 World Cup winner, who missed the most part of her programme and joined the semi-final with the 12th best performance. Double Olympic champion Chen Ruolin finished first in the preliminary round.

The men's 3m springboard synchro was the first event (and final) to be contested Monday morning with a surprising fact: Nicola and Tommaso Marconi (ITA) failed to make the final (the Italian team took 15th). That was a kind of big disappointment as the World Cup will qualify four teams to the Olympics.

Qin Kai and Luo Yutong (CHN) were the best in the preliminaries with a 26,01-point advantage over Alexandre Despatie and Reuben Ross (CAN). It was a big pleasure to see Despatie back to international competition after a one-year break. The diver had only six weeks of training before coming to London for the World Cup but he really did his best. German duo Patrick Hausding/Stephan Feck finished third in the preliminaries, 33.63 points behind the leaders.

The preliminary results in general (with the exception of China) were so close that it promised a very interesting fight in the final.

The final started with the Chinese duo leading from the very first round with a score of 53.40. But the second round saw Qin Kai and Luo Yutong drop to second, 0.6 point behind Troy Dumais/Kristian Ipsen (USA). These ”optional” points for the first two dives don’t play a big role for the future medal race but show quite well that the rivals are totally concentrated.

The first free dives mixed the competitive field in a very strange way. China returned back to the first position with Malaysia (Lomas Bryan Nichson/Quiang Huang) and France (Damien Cely/Matthieu Rosset) taking second and third. The French duo had almost the same points as the Russian pair, 2011 World silver medallist, Evgeny Kuznetsov/Ilya Zakharov (182.40 to 182.28). The Russian team wasn’t lucky in the preliminaries in the first free dive (3.5 Inward Tuck): the divers got 67.32 in the morning session but 85.68 for the same combination in the final.

The fourth round determined the top qualifiers: after the excellent attempt to perform a 4.5 Forward (the most complicated diving combination on the 3m springboard), Ilya Kwasha/Olexey Prygorov (UKR) moved up to second, less than 2 points behind China, securing confidently the top spots. Russia followed with 8.73 points less in third.

The fifth round featured two serious mistakes by USA and Germany: both teams failed in the same combination – a 3.5 Reverse Tuck - and dropped to the bottom of the group's standings. The tension became so high that the situation could reverse any second. The first two positions held by China and Ukraine nevertheless still looked stable.

The final point was set at the very end of the competition. The U.S. team was lucky to use their last chance to improve the situation: Troy Dumais/Kristian Ipsen finished one spot ahead of Germany and qualified for the Games while Patrick Hausding and Stephan Feck finished out of the qualifying group.

The men's 3m springboard synchro at the London Olympics 2012 will see the following nations compete: China, Russia, Mexico, Great Britain, Malaysia, Canada, Ukraine and USA.