Normally the last event of the Olympic diving programme, the men’s 10m platform is usually also one of the most “open” final, namely concerning the winner or the remaining divers getting the medals. In Tokyo, this was also the rule when looking at the initial start list, but after both the prelims and the semis, it became evident that the top positions would go to China, with Cao Yuan prevailing in the semis, and Yang Jian being first in the preliminaries.
In the final, the Asian representatives were once more very concentrated and regular, and managed another 1-2 for China: Cao was first in 582.35, while Yang had to content with the silver in 580.40. The fight for the bronze was quite interesting, with Thomas Daley (GBR) prevailing at the end of the six-dive final, with a total score of 548.25.
This is the first “double” for China since 2000 in this event, when Tian Liang got the gold, and was followed by his teammate Hu Jia. Otherwise, in recent years, non-Chinese divers managed to impose their supremacy in this event, namely Dmitry Sautin (RUS), in 1996, Matthew Mitcham (AUS), in 2008, and David Boudia (USA), in 2012. This time, Cao, silver in the synchro 10m event in Tokyo (the only final lost by China, out of the eight-medal events in diving), and 2016 Olympic champion in 3m springboard, appeared quite inspired, not committing any major mistake throughout the decisive stage of the competition: his best combination was the last one (back 2 ½ somersaults 2 ½ twists, pike, DD 3.6), for which he got 102.60.
SILVER AND BRONZE MEDAL: CAO AND YANG
It is the fifth medal for Cao at Olympic level, after the two above-mentioned presences in the podium, but also a bronze in the 3m synchro in Brazil and the gold in the 10m synchro in London 2012. At 26, the Chinese star is a rare example of a polyvalent diver, capable of equally excelling in both the 3m and 10m board. At World Championships’ level, he has six medals, including three from the last rendezvous in 2019, in Gwangju: gold in both synchro events, and silver in the individual 3m. Finally, with this medal, the Chinese ace became the only diver to have medalled at Olympic level in three different events.
For Yang, 27 years old, this is his first presence on the Olympic podium, after winning the world title two years ago in Korea. He was bronze medallist in this same event at the Budapest 2017 FINA showcase. During the final in Tokyo, the Chinese ace was consistent enough to keep other contenders out of the battle for the silver, getting his best score for his extremely complicated (DD 4.1) forward 4 ½ somersaults in the pike position, awarded by a massive 112.75 from the judges (the best of the final).
China leaves Tokyo with seven gold medals in diving, only missing the victory in the men’s 10m platform synchro event, where Daley and Matty Lee got the only non-Chinese win of these Games in the discipline.
Concerning the bronze medal, the preliminaries and semis ended up in Aleksandr Bondar’s favour: in the first stage, the Russian was clearly better than Tom Daley (513.85, against 453.70 for the British star), while in the intermediate phase the gap was reduced to 1.20 points thanks to a better concentration and consistency for Daley.
In the final, the British appeared quite consistent, just having a short armstand back 3 somersaults (pike), for which he got “only” 80.50. Otherwise, Daley got always scores above 90 points, with the highlight of his programme being the reverse 3 ½ somersaults, flawlessly executed (98.60, including three perfect 10s).
BRONZE MEDAL: THOMAS DALEY
For Daley, this is a fourth Olympic medal, after the gold in the synchro event here in Tokyo, plus two bronze linings in the individual 10m in London 2012 and synchro 10m in Rio 2016. Leaving Tokyo, Daley is the only British diver to ever win four Olympic medals! Moreover, among his six medals at FINA World Championships, the British ace was gold medallist in the individual 10m final in 2009 and 2017. Besides his brilliant performances, Daley generated one of the most circulated images of the Games (all sports included), by being photographed in the stands knitting while watching the competitions and support his teammates. He explained many times that this new hobby emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and the periods of lockdown, where he needed an activity to keep his mind busy.
For Bondar, the fourth place (514.50) concluded a very successful edition of the Games for him, after earning the bronze in the synchro 10m event (with Viktor Minibaev, fifth in the individual final). The Russian great is an experienced diver (he will turn 28 on October 25), with four medals at the FINA World Championships (bronze in Shanghai 2011, one silver in Budapest 2017, and one silver and one bronze – precisely in the individual 10m - in Gwangju 2019).
Also with a medal aspiration in the final was Oleksii Sereda, 15, from Ukraine, very solid technically, but feeling perhaps too much pressure in such a distinguished stage. Sixth in the preliminaries and seventh in the semis, the young prodigy always had a problem with his reverse 3 ½ somersaults (tuck), scoring 40.80 and 25.50, respectively. In the final, he executed this combination in the fourth round, amassing 56.10 points from the judges. He finished the final in sixth (461.70). In Tokyo, Sereda was also sixth in the 10m synchro, while at world level, his best result so far is a fourth place in individual 10m in Gwangju 2019.
Certainly not expecting to be out of the final in Tokyo, Nathan Zsombor-Murray was 13th of the semis – Canada thus leaves the Japanese capital with just one medal in the discipline, silver in the women’s 3m synchro -, Woo Haram, the Korean revelation, was 16th at the same stage of the competition, experienced Ivan Garcia (MEX) was 24th of the preliminaries, and Matthieu Rosset (FRA) was only 29th.
Cao Yuan (CHN):
If he had to give a note for his overall performance at these Games:
“I would give myself 8 out of 10 – my only regret is the synchro 10m platform, where I didn’t get gold. I had a failed dive then, and I spoiled that opportunity. Today, I compensated that.”
Immediate plans after Tokyo:
“These Olympic Games have been postponed by one year, we have been training a lot, but things are not finished yet: we have now our National Games, a quite important competition for us.”
On his successful last dive (with a massive DD and an outstanding score):
“I have practicing this dive since 2013, so I kind of know how to do it… and I am quite good at doing it. It is also a good way to showcase my performance. Today, it worked quite well, so I am very happy.”
Yang Jian (CHN):
On his preparation for the event:
“I spent almost three weeks in the Olympic Village, and I felt pretty nervous anticipating this event. However, during the final, I calmed down, and I finally got silver. Personally, the dream is always to get the gold, but for Team China this was a perfect result.”
Thomas Daley (GBR):
The overall experience in Tokyo:
“The whole competition has been really interesting. For the last 18 months, we were not able to compete, so to be here, at the Olympics, and see such a level of performance, it’s really nice. It has been an intense and exciting experience! For me, it is also nice to be up there with these two divers, the best of the best in the world.”
On getting to Paris 2024:
“If my body helps me to get there, I’m definitively for a go. But I’ll now take a break.”
On the last dive of Cao:
“It’s definitively a hard one! If other divers would perform it, you would see a lot of catastrophes… But Cao does it very well, congratulations to him!”
On the pressure of being at the Olympics:
“Athletes train very hard, but in many cases the Olympics experience becomes very stressful. I wanted to avoid this when coming to Tokyo. So, each time I was diving I’ve looked around, I saw the Olympic rings and I was happy to be here. I would like to express a massive thank you to Japan, which made everything possible for us to be able to compete here. A big thank you also to the volunteers.”