Peng Bo lives up to his name

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 12:00am

Comeback. It's a word Chinese athletes are learning fast. And for diver Peng Bo, it's an especially appropriate word. His name, Bo, means 'never give up'.

Peng just did that - he never surrendered - from start to finish to grab China's fourth diving gold medal in the men's individual 3m springboard, making amends for China's performance in the synchronised platform, where partner Wang Kenan's dreadful error cost China an almost certain gold medal.

Peng became the latest Chinese athlete to make a comeback from an earlier disaster. Gymnast Teng Haibin won gold in the pommel horse after a forgettable performance in the men's team event.

This time, Peng finished strongly at the Olympic Aquatic Centre as he outclassed his rivals to grab gold. He executed a final dive that had a 3.5-degree of difficulty - a forward 21/2 somersault with two twists.

Peng climbed from the pool and bowed toward screaming Chinese fans before hugging his coach and teammates. 'Everything is all right now. It was a very satisfying performance. It was brilliant,' said the 23-year-old university student, who received a standing ovation following his last dive, which earned him a total of 787.38 points.

'I could have never imagined this would come true. This is an incredible moment for me. I still cannot believe it. I feel that was the best performance of my career.'

Peng defeated a field which included his idol, two-time Olympic gold medallist Dmitri Sautin of Russia, who won the bronze with 753.27 points, and Canadian teen Alexandre Despati, who won silver with 755.97. China's Wang Feng finished fourth to announce himself as a potential future star.

'It was one of the hardest dives I ever had to make. I had to compete against the biggest names in the sport, but I did it. Although I competed against my idol, I had to be better than him,' said Peng, who represents the army team in competition back home.

'You know, Sautin has always been my idol. Although he is growing long in the tooth [Sautin is 30], this is the first time I have competed against him at an Olympic Games. I was incredibly excited. I cannot describe to you the feeling when he came up to me after the medals were awarded and congratulated me,' said Peng.

Peng thanked those who helped him achieve his dream gold, including his coach, his father and his partner Wang, whom he called his 'best friend'.

'Wang supported me throughout this competition and boosted me mentally. He came up to me and said 'You made it, you won gold', and I was happy to hear that.

'It is great to finally bring honour to my country. There was pressure, of course, but I overcame the pressure,' said Peng, who continued China's dominance in the event, which it won four years ago in Sydney.