Diving, Day 3: Li retains world 1m springboard title
Shixin Li became the first man to retain the world 1m springboard crown, stretching China's hold on the event and bringing the leading diving nation its second World Championship title in three days. But China, who had claimed gold and silver in the 1m event for the last three World Championships, were denied a second medal as European champion Illya Kvasha of Ukraine and Alejandro Chavez of Mexico claimed silver and bronze.
Li trailed for the first four rounds of the six-round final but was always in contention, finally seizing the lead in the fifth round with an excellent inward 2.5 somersaults.
Kvasha and Chavez challenged Li's supremacy in the last round but the defending champion held his nerve and nailed his final forward 3.5 somersaults for 87.45 points, the highest score of the final, and victory by a margin of more than 26 points. The path to victory was, however, far from straightforward with Li's team-mate Zhiyi Sun, Germany's Oliver Homuth and French former European 3m springboard champion Matthieu Rosset each holding the lead at some point, only to fade away from the podium places.
Li won with 460.95 points, with Kvasha taking the silver (434.30) and Chavez the bronze (431.55). Sun had to settle for fourth (425.05) but Rosset dropped away when he fluffed his fifth-round effort and Homuth had a nightmare final dive as his hopes dissolved of emulating fellow Germans Sascha Klein and Patrick Hausding who beat Olympic champions Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang in the men's 10m synchro final. Li's success brought China back to the top of the medal podium following Saturday's women's 3m synchro springboard victory of Minxia Wu and Tingmao Shi.
China have failed to win the men's 1m event only three times, having triumphed in seven of 10 editions since it entered the World Championship progamme in 1991. Canada's Alexandre Despatie was the last non-Chinese winner in 2005.
Sun took the lead in the first round, with Kvasha and Rosset second equal, Homuth fourth and Li fifth, and held it in the second, Homuth having moved up to second and Li fourth. Homuth moved to the fore in the third round but Rosset thrust ahead in the fourth, only to drop dramatically out of contention in the fifth. That was where Li finally grabbed the initiative, moving 11.20 points clear before stretching away with the gold and triumphantly becoming the first man to win the 1m title more than once.
Gold medal winner: Shixin Li (CHN)
“The other competitors were very strong. I was simply luckier today”.
“When I was younger, my coach showed me a video of this pool during the 1992 Olympic Games. It was my dream to compete here and of course to dive well. I was a bit nervous until the fourth dive, but then my coach told me to relax and I made my last two rounds with more confidence”.
“After my title two years ago in Shanghai [in the same event], I’ve lost some other competitions and many people suggested that I should retire. My coach and my team leader always supported me to continue. They were right! Today, their help paid off”.
“Spain is a very special country for me. In China, they even call me ‘the Spanish diver’… Since 2005, I came here seven times, so this is almost a second home for me”.
Silver medal winner: Illya Kvasha (UKR)
“This pool is really quite special. The atmosphere is great and I feel amazed to get a medal in this scenario. In my last two Worlds, I was fifth, so it’s a great sensation to earn my first award at this level”.
Bronze medal winner: Alejandro Gomez (MEX)
“This is my first medal at a World Championships! I hope this will motivate the rest of the team [who placed two times fourth in the previous finals in Barcelona] and that we can proceed on a successful week. The entire Mexican delegation is very united, so one medal has always a positive impact on the ones competing afterwards”.
“I believe I can shine on more occasions in the future. My dream has always been to get a world or Olympic medal in 3m springboard. This result in Barcelona will certainly boost me to achieve those goals”.
“The most difficult moment of the final was the last dive: besides being a difficult combination [DD 3.4], I knew I could climb to the silver or fall down outside the podium. Fortunately, I remained concentrated and everything went OK”.
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