China claimed its 10th gold medal in the men’s 3-meter synchro event on Sunday to open the diving competition in Budapest. Its lock on gold has only been broken twice in the 24-year history of the event at the FINA World Championships. But not today.
From start to finish, 18th FINA World Champion Cao Yuan and his new partner, 2020 Olympic gold medalist Wang Zongyuan, led the 12-team final and created a gaping 25.5-point lead over Great Britain after four (of six) dives. But Great Britain’s Anthony Harding and Jack Laugher saved their hardest two dives for last. Since scores are multiplied by the degree of difficulty, the Brits had the potential to cause a jarring and historic upset if they nailed their penultimate dive (a forward 4½) and their finale (forward triple twisting 2½) and the decorated Chinese duo (paired in December 2021) were the least bit out of synch.
The strategy nearly paid off.
Harding and Laugher scored 188.13 on their last two dives, compared to China’s 170.10 (which included an uncharacteristic 79.8 on a standard forward 4½) but it wasn’t enough to suture the gash.
In the end, China (459.18), Great Britain (451.71), and Germany’s Timo Barthel and Lars Rudiger (406.44) went 1-2-3 in the lone final on the first day of diving.