Born to dive: China’s latest teenaged Olympic champion destroys the field to claim gold

The 15-year-old takes the 10 metre platform gold to become second youngest diving champion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 11:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 11:26pm

While most 15-year-old girls are still happily being teenagers with all the challenges that entails, China’s Ren Qian has already achieved something truly remarkable – becoming the youngest champion in Rio after winning Olympic gold in the 10-metre platform event.

Chinese divers have developed a reputation as the world’s best, many of them securing success at a point in their careers their foreign counterparts could only dream of.

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But it is rare for a diver as young as Ren to take home the highest sporting honour every athlete craves – a shining Olympic gold. The only other diver to win gold at such a young age was China’s Fu Mingxia, who incredibly took gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics a few weeks before she turned 14. “I did pretty well, but not really so perfect, according to my expectations. You can consider me a perfectionist,” the Chengdu-native said.

“I focused on each individual dive and I think that’s why I got the medal.”

What was incredible about her victory was not just her tender age, but that she won by such a wide margin. She scored 439.25 after five dives. Her 17-year-old teammate, Shi Yajie, took bronze with 419.4, while Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito, 27, scored 389.2.

Ren went to sport school when she was just three years old. Her talent in diving was discovered when she was six and she was subsequently sent to the Sichuan province diving team.

She completed the national diving competition when she was 11 and then went on to represent the national team. “When I was a little kid, I always had a dream of diving,”she said. “I’m young, but I got the medal. I think from now on I’ll train harder, I’ll work harder so I can focus on my future.”

The Olympic gold medal was a result of many years of hard work. Ren was frank that she has never been a schoolgirl.

“I wasn’t a schoolgirl from the start so even when I had to go to school, sometimes it felt quite difficult to digest the things I’ve learned,” she said of her life outside of sport.

She has set her goals high, but already has plans for after she retires.“I want to study law and also forensic medicine,” she said.

Canada’s Benfeito praised the Chinese divers as being “just born to dive”. “They’re good. They’re Chinese. They’re the best at the sport, but you can see that they’re human, too.

“They miss a little here and there,” she said. “They’re just great at diving. They train so hard – not that we don’t train as hard as them – but they’re just born to dive and I really admire it and I love competing against them and really trying to push them even harder.”