Gold galore: Diving delivers seven of eight for China at Olympic Games
Wu Minxia claims a fifth title of her career in Rio de Janeiro, while 15-year-old Ren Qian and unheralded Chen Aisen help the mainland underline their superpower status
In part one of the Post’s look at China’s 26 gold medal haul at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro ahead of this weekend’s visit to Hong Kong of a 64-strong delegation, diving is the first under the microscope after Team China claimed victory in seven of the eight diving events.
Wu Minxia and Shi Tingmao - Diving - Women’s 3m synchronised
Wu more than likely ended her Olympic odyssey on a high, winning her fifth gold medal, this time with Shi Tingmao, who was making her Games debut. “We did a good job.” Shi said: “We work together and can resolve any problems we come across.” Wu became the most successful Chinese women’s athlete in Olympic history and is also the first diver to win gold at four successive Games. “I never expected I could hang in there for such a long time,” she said. “It’s not easy but we share the same dream and work together under the same belief.”
Lin Yue and Chen Aisen - Diving - Men’s 10m synchronised
Lin collected his second gold after victory in this same event at Beijing 2008. “I have been working for this [gold medal] for a long time, and even though I triumphed at the Beijing Games, the feeling is still fresh,” said Lin. “I have been eager to do it again [winning the gold medal] and could hardly believe it.” The result came as little surprise as the pair had won all five qualification competitions. An excited Chen said: “I have realised my childhood dream. This gold medal means a lot to me.”
Chen Ruolin and Liu Xuixia - Diving - Women’s 10m synchronised
Chen, a three-time Olympian, hinted she might quit after joining fellow diver Wu Minxia as the only Chinese female athletes with five Olympic golds alongside men’s gymnast Zhou Kai. “I have had to overcome a lot of injury problems and it’s not easy,” said Chen. “This was my most exciting competition over these years and the pressure was enormous, even much more than in Beijing in 2008.” Teenager Liu was thankful to have a partner like Chen. “She is like an older sister and has helped me achieve this,” she said.
Shi Tingmao - Diving - Women’s 3m springboard
Shi’s victory came as no surprise as she followed previous champions including Gao Min, Fu Mingxia, Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia. Shi is also the reigning world champion and Fina 2015 Female Diver of the Year and the leader of a new generation of divers following Wu’s retirement. “I was not at my best in the final. I was feeling the pressure during the warm-up, probably because this is my first Olympic,” said Shi, the only female diver to win two gold medals in Rio, the other with Wu in the 3m synchronised event. “Rio is just the beginning. I have been given the opportunity and now have the responsibility of contributing to the diving team.”
Cao Yuan - Diving - Men’s 3m springboard
Cao, who won the 10m synchronised platform at London 2012, shouldered the responsibility after He Chao surprisingly failed to make it to the finals. “There was pressure for a result after He could not reach the final,” said Cao. “But I was very consistent and able to bring home the gold medal.”
Ren Qian - Diving - Women’s 10m platform
The youngest gold medal winner in Rio, Sichuan native Ren has been hailed as another Gao Min who comes from the same province. Gao won springboard gold at the 1988 and 1992 Games. “I have not returned home since I joined the national team in November 2013,” said Ren, who was raised in a single-parent family. “I want to take a break and spend time with my family.”
Chen Aisen - Diving - Men’s 10m platform
Olympic debutant Chen claimed a second gold following his earlier victory in the synchronised event. The youngster from Guangzhou also became the only diver to win both platform events. “No other diver has done it before and I am very happy to become the first one,” he said. “All the hard work over the last four years paid off. I did think about it [being double champion] before the event. I was a bit tense in the opening stages, but then felt relaxed after getting into my rhythm. In the end I scored a very high mark – beyond my expectations.” Chen scored 585.3 points, more than 50 points ahead of second placed German Sanchez from Mexico.