Diving day 4 - China completes clean sweep in synchro events

London 2012 Diving

altIn the short history of the men's 3m springboard synchro at the Olympic Games (since 2000) and at the FINA World Championships (since 1998), China only lost the gold medal on two occasions: in 2004, at the Athens Games, when a succession of mistakes from both China and Russia allowed the incredible victory of the Greek pair, and in 2003, at the Barcelona Worlds, where a stronger Russian duet managed to challenge the Chinese supremacy. These two exceptions will remain exceptions: in the fourth day of the diving programme at the 2012 Olympics, Kai Qin and Yutong Luo easily got the fourth gold medal for China in this discipline, winning the final in 477.00. That was 17 points more than the silver medallists, the team of Russia, composed by Ilya Zakharov/Evgeny Kuznetsov (459.63) and more than 30 points over third placed team US Kristian Ipsen/Troy Dumais (446.70).

Qin, 26 years old, is one of the most experienced members of the Chinese squad, having already in his roll of honour two gold medals from Beijing 2008 (individual and synchro 3m springboard) and five awards at the FINA World Championships, since 2007. For Luo, this was his first Olympic success, after three podium presences at world level, one of which being the 2011 title in the same event with Qin. 

"I've started preparing for these two Olympics [2008 and 2012] eight years ago! It was a lot of work, but looking back it's really worth it. For us, the Olympics are the toughest possible competition. Today, we felt quite well and we haven't made significant mistakes. When we succeeded the 109C [forward 4 ½ somersault – in which they collected a 104.88 from the judges], we knew that we had there the key for the victory," considered Qin. "Before the final, I had told Luo: 'Don't be nervous. We just need to do the things we do normally. If we do them OK, we have good chances to win'. And, at the end, it worked out quite well!" Qin continued. Asked about the pressure on achieving a clean sweep in all eight diving events, the Chinese star explained: "We know that we are the team with better possibilities to do that clean sweep, but we don't think on that while competing. We just focus on ourselves, on our dives and on our performances."

From the 16 divers present in this final, only four had Olympic medals before their arrival in London: Qin, Alexandre Despatie (CAN, silver in 2004 and 2008 in individual 3m springboard), and the two Ukrainians – Illya Kvasha and Oleksiy Prygorov (third in this event four years ago in the "Water Cube"). 

If the gold medal was never in danger for the Chinese pair, the fight for the minor awards was highly uncertain until the end of the final. Like in the previous three synchronised events, no team made a major mistake in the first two dives (with a limited DD of 2.0), but the third round brought already some clarification on the concentration (and ambition) of the eight teams present in the Aquatics Centre. The first to "fail" was the British duo Chris Mears/Nicholas Robinson-Baker: on a reverse 2 ½ somersault 1 ½ twists (pike, DD 3.3), an unsuccessful entry from one of the divers jeopardised any medal chance for the home heroes. They downgraded to seventh position and despite some improvement until the end, they couldn't do better than a fifth place.

On the fourth attempt, it was the time for Mexicans Yahel Castillo/Julian Sanchez to commit their biggest error on a challenging forward 4 ½ somersault tuck (DD 3.8), in which both the synchronisation and the entry in the water were far from being perfect. Like their teammates in the previous events, the Mexican duet chose a very complicated programme for this final, but this time this option didn't pay off. Second after round 3, they went back to fourth, losing their momentum and some concentration. In the end, they finished in seventh. Canada's Reuben Ross/Alexandre Despatie was also unfortunate to perform poorly in the last three rounds and concluded in sixth.

Amidst all these mistakes, the only two teams remaining consistent were precisely Russia and USA. Despite some concerns in their fourth attempt, Zakharov and Kuznetsov managed two very solid dives in the end of their programme and got the second medal for Russia at the Aquatics Centre (after a bronze in the swimming competition). Russia had also been in the podium of this event (two silver) in 2000 and 2008. 

"We were also silver medallists in Shanghai [at the 2011 FINA World Championships], but here at the Olympics everything is completely different. Your head thinks different and you have to adapt your performance to this special atmosphere. For this final, we managed to concentrate ourselves and the final outcome was this silver medal," considered the Russian team.

The team of USA (never medalled at the Olympics in the men's 3m synchro) also did an interesting final, but its choice of an "easier" programme somehow determined the possibilities of the North Americans in the event. As a comparison, China totalled a DD of 13.9 in the four dives without DD, while Russia accumulated 14.2 and USA 13.3. Before the individual events, USA has nevertheless achieved an unprecedented success in the synchronised events, with three medals in four finals.

"Today, everyone had a chance of medal. For me, the biggest challenge is to qualify to be here – once here, you try to do the least mistakes you can," explained Ipsen. Asked about the positive influence after the successful performances of other members of US Diving team in London, Troy Dumais was clear: "We are a diving team – when anyone wins a medal, we ALL win a medal. There isn't so much of an individual perspective – we hope to do our best as a team. Once the girls got the first medal, we were all excited and it took a lot of pressure off. Now, we are able to really enjoy the Olympics," he said. 

At the podium's door (4th), the team of Ukraine (bronze medallists in 2008) underperformed in the first two dives and could never reach the necessary excellence to decisively upgrade to the medal area.