Saturday, July 28, 2012

China makes it 3-for-3 in Olympic diving

By PAUL NEWBERRY (AP National Writer) | The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- It looks like another Chinese rout at the Olympic diving pool.

Three days into the competition, China has romped to three gold medals. And its divers will be huge favorites in the remaining five events.

"We try to say we can win gold," Canada's Meaghan Benfeito said, not sounding too persuasive. "But they're amazing divers."

China will try to make it four in a row on Wednesday in men's 3-meter synchronized springboard, sending out 2008 gold medalist Qin Kai and new partner Luo Yutong.

The U.S. will be back in action, too, looking to pick up another medal with Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen. After a 12-year medal drought, the Americans won silver and bronze on the first two days.
They weren't able to extend that success in women's 3-meter synchro on Tuesday, having failed to even qualify for that event.
Not that it was much of a contest.

With stunning precision and dazzling athleticism, Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao led China to gold off the big tower in women's 10-meter synchronized. The 19-year-olds - they were born just two weeks apart - found themselves tied for second after the first round behind the British team, giving the home crowd a brief thrill.

But this one was never really in doubt.

Chen and Wang earned at least 8.5 from the judges on each of their five dives, and even picked up a perfect 10 in the final round for synchronization on a back 2½ somersault with 1½ twists. They hurled themselves off the 33-foot-tall tower and sliced through the water side by side, leaving barely a ripple as they disappeared beneath the surface.

China won with 368.40 points, making the country three-for-three at the London Olympics - nearly halfway to its goal of sweeping the eight diving events.

The only stumble came when the Chinese marks for the final round were posted. The announcer initially said "5.5, 6.0" - then stopped as the crowd gasped. She corrected herself and gave out the expected glittering numbers that secured the gold.

"I felt nervous when I saw others competing," Chen said through an interpreter, "but when I was on the platform, I didn't feel that nervous. I think I was very calm. I just performed as I trained."

The diving powerhouse is trying to become the first to sweep the events since the program was doubled from four to eight at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Chinese nearly pulled it off in Beijing, winning seven golds before Australia's Matthew Mitcham scored an upset in men's 10-meter platform on the final night.

Chen defended her Olympic title in platform synchro that she won at the Beijing Games with a different partner. She is also the defending Olympic champion and heavy favorite in the individual platform event.

The Chinese bowed and smiled when they saw their scores, but they clearly knew this one was in the bag. The bigger celebrations broke out in the Mexican and Canadian camps when they realized their teams had earned spots on the medal podium.

"I expected the gold medal," Wang said. "That's why I was so calm during the medal ceremony."

She's teamed with Chen for two years - not a bad way to make your Olympic debut.

"I just told her, 'Don't be too nervous,'" Chen said. "But I think having moderate amounts of stress has its advantages."

Mexico's Paola Espinosa and 15-year-old Alejandra Orozco took the silver with 343.32, sticking with their country's strategy of using dives with a higher degree of difficulty. It paid off a day earlier in synchro platform for the men, who also won silver behind the Chinese.

"This was a great competition for us," Espinosa said. "We're very happy with the results. Our expectation for the day was to be among the medalists, and we made it."

Benfeito and Roseline Filion took bronze for Canada with 337.62, improving on their seventh-place finish in Beijing and giving the Canadians their second diving bronze of these games. The country also finished third in women's springboard synchro.

"We gave it all we had and we came away with a bronze medal," Benfeito said. "We're pretty happy with that."

Filion said the duo felt good about its chances after an "amazing" morning practice. They were calm and confident they could pull out a medal, if not necessarily a gold.

"We were ready," Filion said. "We talked to each other and said, 'There's nothing more we could have done, either here or at home. We're prepared. We did everything we could.'"

Not that it was enough to stop another Chinese victory.


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