FINA World Championships
China takes it all at home!
Chinese great Qiu Bo got the last gold on offer in Shanghai in the 10m platform. This medal completes the host federation’s complete sweep in all diving events for an overall, record-breaking tally of 10 gold.
Diving can be cruel and unpredictable. In the 3m springboard, five-time World Champion Qin Kai suffered so much in his last dive, a 4 ½ Forward Tuck (109C), that he finished fourth, despite a brilliant performance in the other five rounds.
In the 10m platform preliminaries, it was two-time World Champion Gleb Galperin from Russia who experienced some difficulty with the same dive. Galperin was worrying mostly about his Armstand Reverse (3.0 DD), a new diving combination that was included to his free programme at the beginning of the year. He got quite high marks for execution and assumed that the most important part of the work was done.
China: one step to go for the absolute record
Wu Minxia got the ninth gold medal for China and first for herself. It may sound strange but the four-time World Champion in synchronised diving never had a chance to won her individual medal. Every time since 2001 it was Guo Jingjing who captured gold so all that Wu Minxia gained individually for this period of time was one bronze and two silver medals.
Sometimes, it seems that diving as a sport has its own justice. In 1976, in Montreal, many people thought that Greg Louganis should be awarded with gold medal at 10m platform – but the victory was given to great Italian Claus Dibiasi. The 1976 Games were his last international competition and judges were perhaps more indulgent to the veteran than to the 16-year-old teenager.
The same kind of drama happened in Seoul. Louganis was about to finish his great career, after two Olympic gold in Los Angeles, one more in Seoul at 3m and was fighting for the fourth on the platform. A lot of people were sure that the gold medal should be given to Xiong Ni. But it went to Louganis. And this looked as a compensation for Montreal.
He Chong (CHN) wins, but Russia shines
The Russian divers Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov surprised the audience with their silver and bronze medals. Five-time world champion and Beijing gold medallist Qin Kai finished fourth. The gold went to the Olympic champion and world champion of 2009 in this event, He Chong.
Qin Kai had the best result in the preliminary event – 4.35 ahead of He Chong. In the semi-final, the Chinese divers changed the positions and their results were almost equal with the difference of 0.25. Zakharov had the third score both times. He was the most evident rival to the Chinese among all competitors because of the difficulty of his dives. The Degree of Difficulty of He Chong’s free programme totalled 20.3, while Qin Kai had 20.4. Zakharov had an impressive 21.5.
Gold and silver for China; 2009 champion Espinosa (MEX) in third
Chen Ruolin came to Shanghai as a strong favourite. The two-time Olympic Games winner also had gold medals in Rome 2009 and Melbourne 2007 in synchronised diving. Moreover, she was first in individual platform at the 2006, 2008 and 2010 World Cup. Finally, she accumulated 11 victories at Grand Prix events. An enormous roll of honour for such a tiny athlete – just 1.36m for a mere 30kg weight!
The advantage of her compatriot Hu Yadan was clear during the preliminary competition. The 15-year-old newcomer got the best result with a 11-point advantage over Chen Ruolin. Then, Hu also won the semi-final and the advantage increased to 17.70. The semi-final score of the young Chinese was remarkable: Hu Yadan got six “tens” for her last dive (96.00 in total) and 403.65, in general.
Is 2011 the year of China’s Grand Slam?
The 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.
Golden double for China
The 1m springboard competition exists in the FINA World Championships programme since 1991. It happened four times that divers from the same country got gold and silver in this event. And this country was always the same – China.
Curiously, the 1m springboard is an event where non-Chinese divers have better chances to fight for victory. Sometimes it looks like Chinese sport leaders don't pay much attention to this non-Olympic discipline. In Shanghai, for instance, the host country was represented neither with the reigning world champion in the men’s 1m event Qin Kai, nor with the 2007 world champion Luo Yutong : these two divers are preparing their participation in the 3m event. Therefore, the top places in the lowest board went to newcomers – Li Shixin and He Min.
The preliminary round was won by the Chinese with a comfortable advantage of 30 and 25 points over Javier Illana (ESP) but for them that wasn't a clean performance. Li Shixin made a serious mistake performing his 2.5 Reverse Pike (305B) and got just 48 points for the dive, while He Min missed the entry in 2.5 Back Tuck (205C), and only scored 43.50.
China easily wins first men’s final
Men’s 10 m platform – the most exciting event of the diving programme. That is why the individual final in this event used to conclude the major competitions. As for synchronised diving it has its own “secret”: there are just four free dives to perform, not six. So it is possible to include a more demanding combination into the programme and it makes the competition tighter and unpredictable.
But this is theory. The real thing is that China won the two last World Championships in this event and on both occasions the winner was more than 20 points ahead of the other teams.
China had a kind of new team in Shanghai: Qiu Bo and Huo Liang never dived together at such important level. Huo Liang got two gold medals (Melbourne 2007 and Rome 2009) with Lin Yue, while Qiu Bo captured silver in the individual platform in Italy, two years ago.
China gets first gold, Canada and Australia qualify for the Olympics
The first diving final of the FINA World Championships Shanghai 2011 started almost three hours before the official opening ceremony and it was a real champions’ fight. Besides the result, this event had a “special” meaning for all participants: the three best synchro teams could qualify for the Olympics and every country dreamed about a place on the podium.
Speaking about synchronised diving we usually mean that there is just two vacant places on the podium – the champion’s one is occupied in principle by China.