After four synchronised events, the first diving individual final was held today at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, when 12 athletes contested the women’s 3m springboard. Traditionally, this is a Chinese affair, and both Shi Tingmao and Wang Han did not disappoint, getting an expected gold and silver medal, respectively.
It was the fourth title so far for the Asian powerhouse, after three previous wins here in Tokyo in the synchro events. Shi concluded with a total of 383.50, while her teammate was second in 348.75. The last place in the podium went to US Krysta Palmer, in 343.75.
Already with three gold medals at Olympic level – 3m individual and synchro in Rio 2016, and springboard synchro exactly one week ago in Tokyo -, Shi Tingmao enters in the legend of the sport, with four titles, matching legendary 3m specialist Guo Jingjing, also from China, and one of her idols in the discipline. Both have now an unmatched feat: to win both 3m events at two consecutive editions of the Games (Guo did it in 2004-2008). Shi has also nine medals at the FINA World Championships, including eight gold and one silver. She is notably the winner of the double 3m individual-synchro in the last three editions of the FINA showcase (Kazan 2015, Budapest 2017 and Gwangju 2019).
At almost 30 (on August 31), Shi was already the best in the prelims and semis (350.45 and 371.45, respectively). In the final, the Chinese star did not shake, flawlessly performing her five dives. Her best combination was a forward 2 ½ somersaults 1 twist (pike), receiving 78.00 from the judges. Otherwise, she was constantly over the 75-point mark for each of her dives. It is the ninth consecutive win for China in this event since 1988.
WANG HAN - SILVER MEDALLIST
As for Wang, pairing with Shi for gold here in Tokyo in the synchro event, this is her second Olympic medal. World champion also with her teammate in 2019, Wang confirmed her runner-up status from the prelims and semis, performing also a quite solid programme. She had her weakest combination during the third round, when she “only” received 66.00 points for a reverse 2 ½ somersaults (pike). With her silver, Wang also keeps Chinese tradition of doing the 1-2 in the women’s 3m springboard: it is the sixth time since 1988.
KRYSTA PALMER - BRONZE MEDALLIST
Precisely on that year, the team of United States had medalled in this event. Today, it did it again, thanks to Palmer. Relatively unknown until this final, her best result so far had been a bronze medal in the mixed 3m/10m event at the 2017 FINA Worlds in Budapest (HUN). Two dives were especially important for the North American achievement: her third combination (73.50 for a reverse 2 ½ somersaults), and her fifth dive (73.10, after a forward 2 ½ somersaults 2 twists).
JENNIFER ABEL AND THE OTHERS
At the beginning of this final, the favourite for the bronze medal was undoubtedly Jennifer Abel, from Canada. Had she performed better, this would have been her first individual Olympic medal, after a bronze at the 2012 Games in the 3m synchro and a silver in Tokyo, also in the same event (with Melissa Citrini Beaulieu). “Blocked” by the Chinese for the gold medal in most of the major competitions, Abel has amassed 10 medals at world level, including six silver and four bronze. But things went unexpectedly wrong in the third round, where she was very short on a reverse 2 ½ somersaults: the result was severe, with Abel being awarded 39.00 points from the judges. The hope for a medal faded on that precise moment. In the end, she finished only eighth, in 297.45.
Besides Palmer, the positive surprise of the final was Malaysia’s Nur Dhabitah Sabri. Also relatively unknown, the 22-year-old diver finished in an excellent fourth position (326.15) and will surely be a name to follow in the future.
Today’s first individual final was less dramatic than both the preliminaries and the semi-finals of the event. In the first stage of the competition, Arantxa Chavez, from Mexico, lost the balance on the board, falling in the water before she could make a second attempt, thus getting a missed dive and consequent 0 points from the judges. A similar scenario happened in the semis, when Pamela Ware, from Canada, one of the potential contenders for the medals, also felt in the water before making her dive. Her 18th and last position had then allowed Switzerland’s Michelle Heimberg to contest the 12-diver final. Also out of the final, was Australia’s Anabelle Smith (bronze in 3m synchro in Rio 2016), 14th of the semis, after two shaky dives, in the fourth and fifth round.
Shi Tingmao (CHN):
On her journey to winning two gold medals (also in women's synchronised 3m springboard) at Tokyo 2020:
"One year ago, I was having a lot of troubles. There have been very big changes in this one year. I'm very thankful now for myself that I didn't give up. My age has never been the biggest problem. It's always been whether I want it (to continue competing) or not; this has been the most important thing. My original goal for the medal has never changed, I've always wanted that medal."
On the pressure of the individual final:
"I can sleep well tonight. I had some insomnia last night because of the pressure. The bed and the meals were not really (good), I didn't really adapt to them very well. So I'm looking forward to sleeping well tonight."
On the key moment of the final:
"The last dive was the key dive. In a lot of competitions, the last dive can make it or lose it for the divers. And the training is a very big key point for this."
On whether she was nervous before the final:
"Yes, I had some nerves. I cried a lot (after winning gold) as I have waited too long for this moment. There were a lot of expectations, but I'm very satisfied."
Wang Han (CHN):
On winning silver:
"I feel pretty good. Yesterday's loss (she finished second in the semifinal) didn't really have any effect on today's performance. It was actually a good conclusion that allowed me to perform better today. I was still nervous, yes, but not as much as I was during the doubles (she won gold with Shi in the women's 3m springboard synchronised final last Sunday)."
On her performance:
"There was still more room for improvement on the second and third dives. But I have no regrets because I did my best."
On her post-Olympic Games plans:
"Now that I finished my competition, I'm very happy I can grow out my hair. I'm feeling all right, it's been very tiring. I have had a lot of hair loss, does anyone have any tips? Feel free to give me some tips!"
On competing in her first Olympic Games at the age of 30:
"It's very difficult (to make it on to the Chinese Olympic team). That's why it took me to the age of 30. My age has helped in terms of experience. But in terms of competing against younger divers, there's no difference because everyone is equal on the stage."
On whether she will compete at Paris 2024:
"If China needs me."
Krysta Palmer (USA):
On winning bronze:
"What a day! I am in shock, really. This is more than I could have ever asked or imagined, and I'm just grateful. Grateful that I made it into finals in the first place, and really that was my mindset going into it, just be grateful that you're in an Olympic final. Having that gratitude in the back of my mind really kept me positive and happy and having uplifted spirits. Now I just couldn't live out that happiness."
On her positive attitude during the final:
"Yeah, I really shook the nerves off in prelims. Coming out of prelims, really you just have to fight through it. Really shaking those nerves off helped me come into semifinals, and just really know that I needed to relax more, have more fun and then I can dive better. So coming into today, knowing that I have made it into finals in the first place, really kind of set my hopes up. I just tried my best to dance and have fun, and really just enjoy the moment because you know I'm here in the first place and I'm grateful for that."
On almost getting knocked out in the preliminary rounds:
"Yeah, it was right on the bubble coming out of prelims, and making it into semifinals was an accomplishment. I was just crossing my fingers for it. Coming out of semifinals into the final I was sitting in a good place and I knew I could even do better and really improve upon my dives in semifinals. Today I just really tried to focus in on those specific corrections and give each dive my all, and really just stay in the moment the best I can do."
On a successful Tokyo 2020 diving competition so far for team USA:
"I'm really proud of our team. I mean, we're so supportive of each other and we really have stood by each other through each day that we're here. It's been such a positive team, and that is exciting. It's a young team as well. And that just goes to say that, I mean, you're young, but you still can gain a lot of experience. We have a lot of experienced divers in the US and we've got a great team here. We set some great days in the beginning and from there we're just trying our best to carry through and carry on with the success and just proud of my team."