“All her 14-year life, Quan steps every footprint accurately on the pulse of the times,” said Chen Huaming, Quan's first diving coach.
The Canton Tower, the famous 600m-tall land mark in Guangzhou, southern China, dedicated a special light show only for Quan Hongchan as the 14-year-old delivered three perfect marks of her five dives to claim the gold medal in the women's 10m platform at the Tokyo Olympics Games on August 5.
Quan became the second-youngest Chinese gold medallist in the event in Olympics history after Fu Mingxia won the same event in 1992 at 13. Quan was also the youngest athlete of the Chinese Olympic team in Tokyo.
Born in March 28, 2007, Quan grew up in a small village called Maihe, in Zhanjiang city, Guangdong province. She is the third among five kids in her family with an elder brother and sister as well as a younger brother and sister. Quan started diving at the age of 7 in Zhanjiang, the well-known hometown of diving, and entered the Guangdong province team in 2018.
Guagndong team has been one of the powerhouse in Chinese diving with many Olympic and World champions, including China's first diving World champion Chen Xiaoxia, Olympic champion Sun Shuwei, Yang Jinghui, Xie Siyi and many more.
It took Quan four years to become an Olympic champion since she won her first three titles in Guangdong Junior Championships in 2018 and swept 5 gold medals the year after. She was selected to the national team at the end of 2020.
Q: How did you start diving?
A: One day, I was playing hopscotch with my friends during the break at school when I was 7, Chen Huaming, a former diver and coach from Zhanjiang City Sports School, gave his thumbs up to my jumping ability. He said that I was tiny, swift but able to jump higher and longer than others. At that time, I was 1.20m tall and jump as long as 1.76m. Coach Chen, who was doing his annual work to scout young potentials all over the city and rural areas, went to my home and talked to my parents. He taught me diving at the school in Zhanjiang. I had never tried any other sports before but I enjoyed playing with water. It was a good start for me that I jump from the platform into water ahead of other kids without hesitation.
Q: How was your life in the sports school?
A: I was not good at studying but I found confidence in diving. I tried my best to focus on diving, on every requirement that my coach told us. There is an outdoor diving pool and out-of-date springboard facilities in our school. We trained diving about seven months every year according to the weather. I always had fun in the dry-land exercises. My younger brother and sister later went to my school and started diving, too.
Q: Do you think yourself a talented diver?
A: No. No. No. I am not a talent. I spin all my attention on diving and work hard on every training session. Hard-working is all I can do. When I entered the national team, I knew that everyone was better than me in techniques and more experienced.
Q: Have you ever dreamed to attend the Olympic Games one year ago?
A: I had no idea. I competed my first Chinese National Championships on October 4, 2020. It was the first national level meet held after the Covid-19 pandemic. As a teenage diver, I completed all five category dives three weeks before the championships. My Guangdong team coach He Weiyi told me to gain some experience but I snatch the 10m platform gold by beating some big names, including Rio Olympic champion Ren Qian, World champions Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi. At the end of 2020, I was recruited to the national team but I met technical problems and had some ups-and-downs as I finished fifth in the second leg of Olympic qualification in January 2021 and placed second in a national meet in March and then gold at the third leg qualifiers in May. If Tokyo Olympic Games were held as scheduled, I would not have made the team because I was under the 14-year-old age limit. And I didn’t learn the full competition routine.
Q: How did you compare national competition to the Olympic Games?
A: I felt more nervous at the Olympic Games. I have never competed in a foreign country and stayed in the Olympic Athlete Village. I could not sleep at night. I had a fear to enter the beautiful Tokyo Aquatic Centre because it was too big for me. I was like a Lilliputian diving in a giant world. Fortunately, the 10m platform competition was held two weeks after our arrival and I had enough time to get used to the venue. Coach Liu Ben tried hard to help me reduce stress and switch my attention to other things. He kept talking jokes and other divers’ story. That helped me a lot. Besides, Chen Yuxi guided me go through all the competition, just like my elder sister.
Q: What was in your mind during the final? Did you notice your perfect marks?
A: I made some mistakes in the preliminary and my coach gave me more technical instruction in the semi and final. I listened to his words carefully and followed his reminders in my five dives. I didn't have spare time to think about other things, including the scores.
Q: When you saw the big screen showed with your name, what was your reaction? Did you know that you set the highest score record in this event 466.20 points?
A: I didn't know the record matter. It was out of my expectations. I couldn't believe my eyes. Only after my coach lift me up and everyone congratulated me, I started to realise I won the gold. I was in shock. It was an unbelievable moment that I will never forget.
Q: It seems like you have a special entry magic to eliminate the splash, how can you do that?
A: I only did few perfect entries during the training. I think I performed beyond my ability in the final. I was too excited.
Q: As a 14-year-old rookie, how did your family members encourage you before the Games?
A: My parents told me to "forget about the scores, concentrate on your own dives".
Q: What is your way to celebrate the victory as an Olympic champion?
A: Many things. My mom had a car accident four years ago and went to hospital frequently. I hope I can earn more money to cure her. My gold medal is the best gift for her. I want to eat my favourite snacks as more as possible. I wish to go to the amusement park after our National Games. I'd like to play the doll-grasp machine and grab many dolls. I had a wish to own a small grocery store in my hometown, now my dream is upgraded to a supermarket. But the most important thing is to prepare for our National Games which will be held in September.