On Saturday, reigning FINA World Champions from China once again claimed 3 gold medals in 3 events in Berlin, punctuated by an absolute show-stopper in the women’s 10m event: a showdown between teen sensations Chen Yuxi and Quan Hongchan that produced 10 perfect scores of 10.
Nothing is more exciting in diving than when China tries to beat China in the individual events, and Saturday’s session in Berlin ended with 17-year-old two-time FINA World Champion CHEN Yuxi scoring five perfect 10’s to beat the 15-year-old Olympic champion QUAN Hongchan who produced five 10’s of her own for silver.
By the end of the day, China was a perfect 6-0 in victories at the FINA Diving World Cup in Berlin; the US picked up three more medals (for a meet total of four); and Australia and Germany earned one apiece in the synchro events.
Women’s 3m Synchro Final
China extended its winning streak first in the women’s 3m synchro event on Saturday, thanks to a solid (but not spectacular) performance by the 2022 world champions CHANG Yani, 20, and CHEN Yiwen, 23, who scored 330.03 for their five dives. The key was that over the last three rounds – where synchro athletes are free to choose the difficulty of their dives – China never scored lower than 72.00 points while the rest of the field failed to top 63.90.
Afterwards, Chang said the duo is always chasing perfection and even with their success, they still get nervous butterflies “a little bit, but it’s totally under control.”
Germany and the US battled for second place but the final order was set in the second round when Germany’s Saskia OETTINGHAUS and Jana Lisa ROTHER edged past the Americans, Kristen HAYDEN and Brooke SCHULTZ and eventually claimed a third medal for the host country: silver, 57.09 points behind China. The US finished third, trailing Germany by 14.97 points. The other two teams, Colombia and Brazil finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Men’s 3m Synchro Final
In the men’s 3m synchro final, China’s world champions CAO Yuan and WANG Zongyuan again topped the field – this time by 88.68 points over runners-up Tyler DOWNS and Greg DUNCAN of the US. But the Chinese duo got a little too comfortable after scoring all 9.0’s and 9.5’s on its first two dives.
In the third round, an out-of-synch and splashy forward 2½ with 2 twists (with a 3.4 DD, not even China’s hardest dive) scored just 63.24. Colombia’s Sebastian MORALES and Luis Felipe URIBE (who had been in seventh place among the eight teams) did the same dive in the same round, and scored 69.36 to top China’s single dive score and vault into third place (behind China and Germany).
In the fourth round, Colombia edged past Germany into second place, and was less than 22 points behind China with two dives remaining.
Round five and six thus became highly suspenseful – not because anyone would beat China (Cao and Wang pulled it together immediately after their third-round gaffe and scored more than 90 points on their last two dives, including their finale, a forward 4 ½ (109C) worth 3.8 DD that scored an event-high 96.90 points).
But in round five the US jumped from fifth to second place (where it would stay) on an easy inward 2½ (with 3.0 DD), and Australia’s LI Shixin and Lachlan CRONIN knocked Colombia out of third place, also with an easy-ish dive (a back 2½ with 3.0 DD).
But still, less than 15 points separated the US, Australia, Colombia and Germany (for second- to fifth-place) with one dive remaining. Could Australia overtake the US for silver? Could Colombia (trailing third-place Australia by 1.08 points) get on the podium with the final dive of the contest?
In the end, the standings remained: China, USA, Australia went 1-2-3, followed by Colombia, Germany, Jamaica (which finally had a synchro pair as Yohan ESKRICK-PARKINSON joined the long-time solo act Yona KNIGHT-WISDOM). Georgia and Brazil finished seventh and eighth.
After regrouping and finishing strong, WANG of China said, “Performances like this come from our daily training. Every day, we are training each of our dives, from the first to the sixth round. If we can show what we do in training during the events, that’s the best.”
His teammate CAO said, “because the Chinese diving team is very competitive…we transfer this pressure into motivation,” and said, even at 27, he is far from finished.
Women’s 10m Platform Final
In the all-China battle for gold, QUAN set the tone on her opening dive: a forward 3½ that earned five 10’s from the seven judges. It was so much perfection that two of those 10’s didn’t count toward her 90-point score. The funny thing is, Quan doesn’t look at the scores.
“Really?” QUAN said afterwards. “I had no idea.”
But then, in the third round, CHEN blasted out four 10’s of her own on a difficult armstand back 3 to earn a meet-high 97.35 and pull ahead of her 15-year-old teammate. The young QUAN earned he next-best score of the contest on her fourth dive (of five): a back 3 ½ that earned 94.05 points but it wasn’t enough to overtake her older compatriot.
Entering the final dive, less than 10 points separated the two youths. They would both perform a back 2½ with 1½ twists. CHEN went first and produced another 10 and four 9.5s, forcing QUAN to score 101 points on the same dive just to tie for gold. She couldn’t.
In the end, CHEN won with 449.85 points. Runner-up QUAN earned 430.45. And Nike AGUNBIADE of the US took bronze for consistency, earning 298.70 points while the 2022 world bronze medalist Pandelela PAMG of Malaysia, 29, unraveled on her last two dives and fell from third place to sixth.
CHEN attributed her victory, she said, to “my focus. I could totally block out and never think back about the previous dives. Yeah, that’s what stood out most about my performance today.”
Diving concludes on Sunday with three finals: in women’s 3m individual, men’s 10m individual, and a mixed team event that will not feature China.