China wins all 13 diving golds, but the last one almost slipped away

  • diving

After China obliterated the competition in 12 diving events, it was up to Yang Jian and Yang Hao to win gold No. 13 on the men’s 10-meter platform and make it a complete sweep at worlds. It didn’t quite go as planned.

On the last day of the FINA World Championships, on the last day of diving, China had one last chance to do what no nation had ever done – win 13 gold medals in a discipline at a single event.

After taking gold No. 12 in the women’s 3-meter synchro event earlier on Sunday, China was just six dives away.

It was up to Yang Jian or Yang Hao. Together, they had won the 10m synchro event here in Budapest. But now, one of them had to win the men’s 10-meter platform event.

Yang Jian, 28, was the defending world champion. He also had the harder dive list. Dives 3 and 6 had 3.8 and 4.1 degrees of difficulty, and he was saving the hardest one for last. His gold-medal synchro partner, Yang Hao, 24, also had a rigorous agenda.

Nipping at their heels were teenagers Rikuto Tamai, 15, of Japan, and the Ukrainian sensation: Oleksii Sereda, who scored a pair of fourth place finishes at the 2019 world championships at age 13, and went on to earn two sixth places on the 10-meer platform at the Tokyo Olympic at 15.

After two dives, Yang and Yang were in the top-3. Déjà vu. But round three shifted the entire mood of the competition – seismically. The defending champ, Yang Jian botched his 5156B (triple twisting forward 2½), the dive with the 3.8 DD. He scored 66.50, fell from second to seventh, and sat 18.1 points behind the new leader, Tamai of Japan. Yang Hao then blew his 407B (inward 3½), scored 64.75 points, and dropped from first to third.

Tamai held his lead after dive four. But Yang Hao had fought back and narrowed Tamai’s lead to less than a point. Meanwhile, Yang Jian had rebounded from seventh to third with an armstand back double with 2½ twists.

Round five scrambled the scoreboard again. Yang Jian was suddenly back on top, about 10 points ahead of Cassiel Rousseau of Australia! Yang Hao was clinging to third, just 3.1 points behind Rousseau. Tamai dropped down to fourth on an easier dive.

Tamai, Yang Jian, and Yang Hao were the last men to dive. Tamai guaranteed he would leave Budapest with a medal on a 5255B that scored 9.0, 9.0 and 8.5 for a total of 488.0 points. Yang Jian was next, but the hope of the nation rested on his ability to perform the hardest dive of the entire competition: his 4.1 DD. He nailed it – or nailed it enough to earn 102.50 points (based on 8.5, 8.5, 8.0 from the judges), and jet-packed past Tamai, to an almost-gawdy 515.55 points. And so it was done. Yang Hao could exhale and take the bronze with a decent forward 4½ – which he did.

Afterwards, the Yang Jian, the gold medalist said: “It’s lucky that we [China] get the gold and bronze medal.”

Acknowledging the difficult route he took to win gold, Yang Jian said simply, “It’s pressure. But I made it. I withstood the pressure.”

Compared to the unexpected drama of the men’s 10m final, the women’s 3m synchro event, held just beforehand, essentially became an undercard. Here’s what happened.

Less than 24 hours after extending China’s excellence by winning the women’s 3-meter gold medal, Chen Yiwen teamed up with the 3-meter bronze medalist from last night to – again – dominate all five rounds en route to victory. Their 343.14-points triumph also completed China’s gold-medal sweep of all five women’s events at the 19th FINA World Championships.

Although no perfect 10s were awarded during the contest, the judges gave China plenty of 9.0s, including 20 (out of 25) for synchronization.

After the competition, the athletes were gleeful. “The diving here was amazing!” said Chang, 21. “We enjoyed the audience… They gave us a lot of energy and power, so we would like to thank it, we are very grateful for them.”

All day, Japan’s Rin Kaneto and Sayaka Mikami held a lock on second place in a contest where only four duos nudged up their degree of difficulty past 3.0 by doing a single 3.1 DD dive (in each case, choosing a 107B, a forward 3½). Japan was not among them, but Kaneto an Mikami dove consistently enough to earn 303.00 points for silver.

“This silver medal is a big hope for Paris [2024 Olympics],” said Kaneto, 18, who had come back from a shoulder injury.

Australia, however, almost took it away. After four dives, Maddison Keeney, 26, and Anabelle Smith, 29, were less than one point behind Japan. In their fifth and final dive, a 5152B (forward-twisting 2½), they failed to move up and captured the bronze medal, trailing Japan by 8.88 points. Keeney and Smith had also been the bronze medalists in this event at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Germany, Canada, Malaysia, and the US finished fourth through seventh in the 12-nation final.

China has now won the women’s 3m synchro event 12 of the 13 times it has been contested at the world championships – all but the discipline’s1998 debut.