“My dream came true at the National Games”

 

How do you feel about being the new queen on the springboard after Gao Min, Fu Mingxia, Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia?

I am flattered. For me, they are my idols and role models. I hope I can take over the baton from them and maintain the dominance. I am too young and too fresh to compare to Gao, Fu and Guo and I did not get the chance to train or compete with them. I have watched the competition videos of them and admired their domination of the sport. Wu was my synchro partner and helped me a lot after I entered the national team at the end of 2012.

 

How do you assess your performance in 2017?

It has been a difficult year for me but I got over the first-ever low-ebb season in my diving career. I had no perfect competitions at all throughout the whole year, though I took the victories. I would give myself 80 points overall for my 2017 season. I am not satisfied with my performance but happy to beat the rusty form with my strong will.

 

You have won two titles at the Budapest World Championships. Do you think you are on top of the world?

I have said before that I enjoyed international competition and I tried to show my best in Budapest since it was the first big event after the Rio Olympic Games. It was very hard to compare the Worlds with the Olympics but I felt I was not fully ready for this summer. I switched my role as a follower with veteran Wu Minxia to a leader now and I also changed my synchro partner: Chang Yani is 11 years younger than me. We started from zero and made improvement on the synchronisation each time. I performed to my normal form in the individual event and competed with myself. I was happy with the two gold medals.

 

How do you recall your performance at the Chinese National Games?

The Budapest World Championships and the Chinese National Games were held within one month. I had almost no time to prepare for the National Games but I wanted to perform better. My dream came true at the National Games when I earned a total of 409.20 points in the individual final. I know that the personal best score means nothing in diving because the level of competition, rivals, referees and so on is different in each meet. Still, it was the personal best score of my career and my best performance this year. I collected 406.50 at the Rio Olympic Games. I should say my performance at the National Games was better than the one in Budapest.

 

Talking about the National Games, is it like the Olympic Games? Why do you think it is important to you?

Yes, it is a multi-sports gala just like the Olympic Games, held every four years, but with more athletes. It might have been my last National Games because I am not a young diver. I don’t know what will happen in the next four years. I won the all-round champion title four years ago at the 12th National Games as the first diving title for my hometown in history. This time I collected two titles in the individual and synchro events. I really want to bring more glory to my hometown Chongqing and my coach Liu Ben, as well as to win more titles for China in international competition.

 

“I will keep up the fighting spirit”

 

Comparing yourself four years ago, do you think you are more experienced?

It is true that I always considered myself a rookie since I entered the national team in late 2012. I was inexperienced and fresh compared with other divers who became world and Olympic champions at a very young age. I tried my best to cherish every competition and accumulate big meet experience. Now I am one of the oldest in the team and have just been named the captain of the women’s team. I am honoured to be the captain, with more responsibility for the young divers. My role has changed from newcomer to leader in four years as I am getting older. Although I will keep up the fighting spirit in training and competition, I also need to work harder and set higher targets.

 

You are 26 – do you really think you are old?

I still think I am young in myself and compared with foreign competitors in the international events. I feel old only when I face teenage divers in my team and with my new synchro partner Chang Yani. In fact, everyone wants to be younger. I wish I could be three or four years younger and I could dive in more competitions. As Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing both retired around 30 years old, I think maybe I can have a try. I need to learn how to deal with injuries and age.

 

Is diving still your favourite? If you were given a second chance, would you be willing to be a diver?

Yes, of course. I would definitely choose diving. I like diving and enjoy the feeling of flying from the springboard. Diving is a fun sport but needs professional teaching and training. I really hope more people and kids fall in love with diving and try to learn the sport.