American Wilkinson wins women's platformPosted: Saturday September 23, 2000 12:00 AM
Updated: Thursday November 09, 2000 1:07 PM
SYDNEY, Australia (CNNSI.com) -- Laura Wilkinson stunned the powerful Chinese divers to win America's first Olympic gold in 36 years on the women's 10-meter platform Sunday.
Wilkinson, 22, broke up the Chinese women's stranglehold on platform, in which they had won four straight Olympic titles.
"I didn't know if it was possible at first, but I had nothing to lose," she said.
Wilkinson finished first with 543.75 points, just 1.74 points ahead of China's Li Na, who had 542.01. Anne Montminy of Canada earned bronze with 540.15.
"It's a nice surprise," said Ken Armstrong, Wilkinson's coach.
China's Sang Xue, 15, and the 16-year-old Li were 1-2 after the preliminaries and semifinals. Montminy and her teammate, Emilie Heymans, were in third and fourth places coming into the five-dive final.
Wilkinson, of The Woodlands, Texas, was diving on a foot broken in March. She wore a kayak shoe to protect the bones that protrude into the bottom of her foot, then tossed it off the 33-foot tower before diving.
"I've gotten so used to it after the last six months that it's not that bad," said Wilkinson, who postponed surgery until after the Olympics.
She took over first for good on her third dive, a reverse 21/2 somersault with a tuck, which earned marks ranging from 9.0 to 9.5. She entered the water with barely a splash.
That's the same dive that landed Wilkinson on her first Olympic team at the U.S. trials in June, where she received mostly 10s.
She emerged smiling from the water, and blew a kiss to the television camera from the hot tub.
"I heard the scores, but I didn't know how close I was," she said.
Her fourth dive, an inward 21/2 somersault from the pike position, has often been a troubled one. But she nailed it with mostly 8.5s and 9.0s from the seven judges.
"I knew I had it in me somewhere," she said.
Wilkinson came into the final in fifth place behind the Chinese duo and the Canadians. For the first time since 1968, she was the lone American in the platform final after Sara Reiling of Roseville, Minn., failed to advance out of the semifinals.
Lesley Bush was the last American woman to capture the platform in 1968.
"Maybe this is the rebirth of USA diving," Armstrong said. "It's huge. It was time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.