China’s supremacy in diving unshakeable

By Xinhua,

Beijing : The powerful Chinese diving team is unlikely to surrender its dominance at the upcoming Olympics on home soil after confirming its supremacy throughout the season.

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China has undisputed domination in diving. The Chinese diving team claimed five golds at 2000 Sydeny Olympics and further took a record six at 2004 Athens Olympics, maximum by any team for China.

The Chinese divers flexed their muscles by sweeping all eight golds during the last meet of the FINA Diving Grand Prix in Rome earlier this month.

“We have full confidence to do well in the Beijing Olympics,” said Zhou Jihong, head coach of the Chinese diving team. “Now we are warming up in Jinan to get better prepared.”

“Some of our players are quite young, and they may be nervous to compete at home,” added Zhou. “We must let them be more physically and mentally strong.”

With “Diving Queen” Guo Jingjing and Olympic gold winner Wu Minxia, China has almost secured the golds in the women’s three-meter springboard, both individual and synchronised.

At the age of 27, the eldest diver in the squad, world and Olympic champion Guo is still an overwhelming favourite on the springboard.

The 22-year-old Wu, who often followed Guo in the 3-meter springboard competition including 2004 Athens Olympics and 2007 Melbourne World Championships, is much more mature now after defeating Guo to claim the victory in the FINA Diving World Cup earlier this year.

In the men’s 3-meter springboard, Qin Kai, winner of the 2007 Melbourne worlds, and He Chong, gold medallist at the 2008 World Cup, are both hot favourites. And in the men’s 3-meter synchro, Qin Kai has paired with veteran Wang Feng to pocket the gold in 2007 Melbourne worlds.

In the women’s 10-meter platform, teenager Wang Xin and Chen Ruolin, winner and runner-up of the 2007 Melbourne worlds, are front runners in both individual and synchronized events.

However, the host has a weak point in the men’s 10-meter platform.

The high dive has been a problem for China since the retirement of Sydney Olympic gold medallist Tian Liang. Meanwhile, Hu Jia, the individual gold medallist in Athens, was kept out of the squad by injuries.

China lost the gold in the event at the 2007 Melbourne worlds as Russian Gleb Galperin beat the Chinese favourite Zhou Luxin and Lin Yue for the victory.

It was also the only gold China lost in the 2008 FINA Diving World Cup as Germany’s Klein Sascha was crowned.

The threat to China may also come from world champion Galperin of Russia and Cuba’s Jose Guerra, winner of the 2007 Pan American Games.

Russia will be quite competitive in diving at Olympics as the two great divers, 34-year-old “diving czar” Dmitri Sautin and 31-year-old Yulia Pakhalina will compete in the men’s and women’s 3-meter springboard, respectively. Though they are much older than the others, Sautin and Pakhalina are still in good form.

Canadian top diver Alexandre Despatie is still the arch rival of the Chinese dream team as he was the runner-up in the men’s 3-meter springboard of the 2007 Melbourne worlds and 2004 Athens Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Australian squad may be eye-catching as some veteran divers make a comeback before the Olympics.

Mathew Helm, runner-up of the men’s 10-meter platform at the Athens Olympics, Chantelle Newbery, winner of the women’s 10-meter platform in Athens, and her husband Robert Newbery, bronze medallist in the men’s 10-meter platform synchronisation, will all compete in the “Water Cube”.

Laura Wilkinson is undoubtedly the shinning star in the U.S. team as she boasts three golds at the Olympic Games, World Cup and World Championships from 2000 to 2005. Moreover, platform specialist Troy Dumais is still irreplaceable.