China powers on in quest for diving gold sweep
LONDON (AP) - Five golds down, three to go. China has been so far unstoppable in the diving pool in pursuit of a sweep at the London Olympics.
He Chong is favored to defend his title in men's 3-meter springboard starting Monday in the preliminaries. The two-time world champion will be challenged by countryman Qin Kai, who won the 3-meter synchro title with Luo Yutong in these games.
Alexandre Despatie of Canada is also in the mix for the medals podium. He nearly didn't make it to the Olympics after hitting his head on the 3-meter board in Spain in mid-June. Despatie underwent surgery and needed stitches to close a wound that stretched from ear-to-ear.
Despatie earned silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 games.
Other contenders include Russians Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Zakharov, who teamed to win silver in the 3-meter synchro, and Troy Dumais of the U.S. He teamed with Kristian Ipsen for bronze in the synchro event.
China moved closer to sweeping the gold medals with Wu Minxia's victory in women's 3-meter on Sunday. She earned her record-tying sixth career medal but first individual gold. Wu tied retired countrywoman Guo Jingjing as the most decorated divers in Olympic history.
"This is the perfect ending for me,'' Wu said through a translator.
Wu led all but one round of the five-dive final, totaling 414.00 points.
Her stoic face cracked for the first time when she started crying after the contest was over. Wu clasped her left hand to her mouth as her coach took her head in his hands and kissed the top of her head.
"I was very emotional because I wanted to thank my coach,'' she said.
Her teammate, He Zi, took the silver with 379.20, giving China its sixth diving medal of the games, including five gold after sweeping the synchro events. Wu and He also won the 3-meter synchro title in London, making Wu the first woman to win three consecutive Olympic synchro titles.
Wu, the 3-meter world champion, finished third in Beijing and second at the 2004 Athens Games.
Her success came days after a newspaper revealed her parents had kept the death of her grandparents and her mother's struggle with breast cancer from the 26-year-old diver in order not to distract her preparations for the games.
"Maybe there is some distance between me and my family but with all the new technology we talk every day,'' she said. "I chose to be a diver so I could pursue this dream.''
Asked if the sacrifices were worth it, Wu said, "First of all, I have not died, and I am not sacrificing the way you have described. Everybody has a dream and I chose to dive. This is the result of everyone's support.''
Canadian Jennifer Abel was moved by Wu's family news.
"I was sad for her because she's here and people let her know here,'' said Abel, who finished sixth.
Laura Sanchez Soto of Mexico earned the bronze at 362.40.
Going into the final round, only 0.05 points separated third-place Sanchez Soto from Cassidy Krug of the U.S. in fourth and Tania Cagnotto of Italy in fifth.
Cagnotto finished fourth with a personal-best 362.20, missing a medal by only 0.20 points and leaving her without any hardware in four Olympic appearances. She was competing 40 years after her father and coach, Giorgio Cagnotto, won the first of his four medals.
"These games are just unlucky for me,'' said a teary-eyed Cagnotto, who also was fourth in 3-meter synchro. "If only one person gave me a 9 instead of an 8.5, I would have made it. What kind of mistake can you find in two-hundredths (of a point)? It was bad luck.''
The U.S. run of podium finishes ended with Krug's seventh place. Her teammate, Christina Loukas, was eighth. The U.S. won medals in three of the four synchro events after being shut out of medals at the last two games.
Krug was third after three rounds, but she fell to fourth and then seventh on her last dive. She didn't quite get rotated far enough around on a forward 2 1/2 somersault with one twist pike, earning only 55.50 points.
"I'm crushed by the last one,'' she said. "I knew as I was hitting the water. Darn.''
Loukas, a two-time Olympian, was never higher than seventh in the final. She finished ninth four years ago.
"I went for it, but it was just not my day,'' she said. "I could not find the water, I could not find my rhythm. Compared to my results in Beijing, I came a long way. I made a lot of improvements, so I thought I could ask for it.''
Wu earned the highest score in the final round. Her back 2 1/2 somersault pike received the only perfect 10 of the final, along with 9.5s, to total 85.50 points.
Diving second-to-last, Cagnotto had the second-best score on her last dive. She hit a reverse 2 1/2 somersault pike for 8.5s, but the Italian quickly realized it wasn't enough to lift her onto the medals podium.
Cagnotto covered her face with her hands. She got in the hot tub and put her face in the water. She climbed out shaking her head and walked over to her father, who enveloped her in a hug.
"She needed to be perfect today and she wasn't,'' the elder Cagnotto said. "We came here well-prepared but now we've lost two medals. More than being disappointed I'm just angry.''
He moved into first after two dives, hitting a forward 3 1/2 somersault - a tougher dive than Wu did - to outscore Wu 83.70 to 79.75 in the round.
"This is my first Olympics,'' He said. "I didn't do as well as I expected in the preliminaries and the semifinal so I was not thinking of winning medals. I just wanted to perform well.''
But Wu bounced right back and reclaimed the lead on the same dive that He did in the previous round. Wu scored 85.25 and went on to improve her scores in the last two rounds.
Antoine Vermette scores two as the Coyotes beat the Avalanche
Kings score six in shutout of Canadiens