After all is said and done, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics turned out to be a great success for the world of sports, especially its athletes. Despite widespread opposition among the locals and all sorts of COVID-19 related restrictions, the Games did take place and many surprises happened. We particularly talk about Diving at Tokyo 2020 in this article.
Day 1, July 25. Women’s Synchronized 3m Springboard.
There was not much fanfare on the first day of competition as the Chinese tandem of Shi Tingmao and Wang Han garnered a total of 326.40 to confidently take gold in the Women’s Synchronized 3m Springboard event. Second place went to Canadians Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini Beaulieu with 300.78 points while Germany’s Tina Punzel and Lena Hentschel finished third with a score of 284.97.
Curiously, absent from the event were the British, Russian and Ukrainian pairs who could have reasonably landed a medal on account of their scores last May 2021 at the LEN European Aquatics Championships. The lowest of the three pairs, Anna Pysmenska and Viktoriya Kesar of Ukraine scored 281.19 points despite not having trained at all.
Day 2, July 26. Men’s Synchronized 10m Platform.
The second day of the competition caught the attention of the public as it featured one of the more popular divers in Thomas Daley of Great Britain. Daley teamed up with Matthew Lee in collecting 471.71 points to narrowly beat the Chinese duo of Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen (470.58 points) in the Men’s Synchronized 10m Platform event. Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev of the Russian Olympic Committee finished with 439.92 points to finish third.
Finally, Daley became an Olympic champion to further expand his cult following. After the Olympics, Daley netted a million new Instagram followers to bring his total to over 3.4 million. A Queen’s reception is undoubtedly guaranteed!
On a personal note, we congratulate Alexander Bondar on his medal finish. His journey started in Ukraine, at the Luhansk Diving School. He performed for the Ukrainian national team at the London 2012 Olympics at the age of 19, and after 9 years he got the bronze medal for Russia with Viktor Minibaev.
The Ukrainian duo of Oleh Serbin and Oleksii Sereda finished sixth with a total of 400.44 points, a good result for the youngest team at the event (19 and 15 years old, respectively) with a low DD program.
Day 3, July 27. Women’s Synchronized 10m Platform.
The excitement from the Women’s Synchronized 10m Platform event did not come from the race for the gold medal but, rather, the bronze. After the fourth round, it was already clear that the Chinese team of Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi (363.78 points) would finish first while the American team of Jessica Parratto and Delaney Schnell (310.80 points) would finish second. Mexico’s Gabriela Agundez Garcia and Alejandra Orozco Loza (299.70 points) edged out Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay (299.16) to land third with the slimmest of margins.
Day 4, July 28. Men’s Synchronized 3m Springboard.
In the fourth day of action, the Men’s Synchronized 3m Springboard event saw two medal contenders falter to surprise the field. China once again ruled the event with Wang Zongyuan and Xie Siyi gaining 467.82 points ahead of USA’s Andrew Capobianco and Michael Hixon (444.26 points) and Germany’s Patrick Hausding and Lars Rudiger (404.73 points). The German duo only clinched the last podium spot in the last attempt which they executed brilliantly to keep the Mexian tandem of Yahel Castillo Huerta and Juan Manual Celaya Hernandez (400.14 points) at bay.
With half of the Rio 2016 Olympic champions for the event in Jack Laugher teaming up with Daniel Goodfellow, the British team were expected to land a medal but instead ended in 7th place. British national diving team head coach Alexei Evangulov gave a comment on the performance: “The performance of the boys in synchronized diving at 3 meters, as well as the girls in the individual springboard of 3 meters, was strongly influenced by the absence of the usual two-week training camp in the time zone (and region) where the Olympic Games are held. The guys couldn’t show what they were capable of.”
Only the Russian Olympic Committee performed worse than the British in this event. In the last attempt, Nikita Shleikher made a gross mistake in the hurdle. As a result, the tandem did not receive any score for the dive, which turned a likely medal into a last place finish.
Days 5-7, July 30 – August 1. Women’s 3m Springboard.
The Women’s 3m Springboard event is the only event which lasted three days. 27 athletes from 20 countries took part in the preliminaries. Only 18 athletes advanced into the semifinals and 12 athletes to the final. The same is true for all other individual events.
Unsurprisingly, the Chinese divers dominated the individual events as other countries were left to battle for third.
China’s Shi Tingmao, who is called “ba dien ban” (8.5 in Chinese) for her consistent scores of 8.5, defended her Rio 2016 title landing 383.50 points, an unattainable five-jump aggregate even for her compatriot Wang Han who only managed 348.75 points. USA’s Krysta Palmer finished a close third with 343.75 points.
Canada’s strong medal contender, Jennifer Abel, made a mistake in her third attempt, which threw her from 2nd place down to 12th – a place she was not able to recover from. Also, back in the semifinals, another Canadian contender in Pamela Ware, made a failed dive and didn’t qualify for the finals.
Days 8-9, August 2-3. Men’s 3m Springboard.
Contenders continued to fall in the Men’s 3m Springboard event as Germany’s Patrick Hausding, bronze medalist for the same event in Rio 2016 and half of the Men’s Synchronized 3m Springboard bronze medalists days back, could not make it past the preliminary round finishing in 21st place. Russian Olympic Committee’s Nikita Shleikher continued to have a forgettable performance as he only managed a 24th place finish.
In the final, China’s Xie Siyi won the event with 558.75 points, followed by China’s Wang Zongyuan with 534.90 points, and Great Britain’s Jack Laugher who got 518.00 points.
Korea’s Woo Haram had a noteworthy performance finishing in 4th place with 481.85 points while Russian Olympic Committee’s Evgenii Kuznetsov fought back from 12th and last place after an unsuccessful dive in his fourth attempt to roar into the upper half of the table and finish in 5th place with 461.90 points.
The surprise of the event was Ishak Mohab of Egypt who made history for men of his nation by making it to the final at the Olympics. This event was also momentous for the local bet Ken Terauchi who, at 41 years old, participated in his sixth Olympiad. After his final dive, he received a standing ovation from those present at the pool to send off the Japanese diver in a dramatic fashion.
Days 10-11, August 4-5. Women’s 10m Platform.
Nothing is more surprising than seeing European and World champions failing to get past the preliminaries. 2021 European Champion Anna Konanykhina of the Russian Olympic Committee, 2017 World Champion Jun Hoong Cheong of Malaysia and 2019 European Champion Sofiia Lyskun of Ukraine all failed to advance to the semifinals finishing 25th, 26th and 29th, respectively in the Women’s 10m Platform event.
Thus, more surprises awaited everyone in the final. It was the tournament’s youngest participant, Quan Hongchan of China, who emerged victorious. The 14-year-old wonderkid registered, not one, but three perfect 10 dives giving her a remarkable 466.20 points and elevating her into stardom.
Russian diving expert Elena Vaytsekhovskaya had this to say about the feat: “Personally, my props goes to the 14-year-old girl who looks like a seven-year-old boy, Hongchan Quan. Neither in men’s nor women’s diving history has there been such a performance, and it is unlikely that it will be repeated. In three of her five jumps, the Chinese girl got a clean “ten.” She had the only dive with a rear or blind entry into the water that scored 95.70 points. That meant that she received 10s from three out of seven judges. Only her first attempt spoiled the Chinese girl’s statistics – two 9s and one rating of 9.5. Just a historical fact.”
More than 40 points below the Chinese prodigy was compatriot Chen Yuxi with 425.40 points followed by Australia’s Melissa Wu with 371.40 points.
Days 12-13, August 6-7. Men’s 10m Platform.
The “cherry on the cake” of any diving competition is usually the Men’s 10m Platform event.
This event was again filled with surprising setbacks from strong contenders. Mexico’s Ivan Garcia Navarro was first to fall as the London 2012 medalist wound up in 24th place after the preliminaries. In the semifinals, two more medal hopefuls fell as Korea’s Kim Yeongtaek and Woo Haram finished 15th and 16th, respectively, out of the top 12 that would have qualified them for the final.
In the final, China’s Cao Yuan and Yang Jian had an intense battle for gold. It was only in the last dive where Cao Yuan, who scored 102.6 points, finally snatched victory from Jian Yang. Yang’s final attempt scored a tournament-high of 112.75 points which turned out to be the most difficult dive during this edition of the Olympics. Cao Yuan (582.35 points) beat Yang Jian (580.40 points) by the slimmest of margins. So heated was the battle that Yang noticeably did not congratulate Cao for the win.
Great Britain’s Thomas Daley capped off his Olympic stint with 548.25 points, a bronze medal and a couple of knitted handicrafts on top of the gold medal he earlier won. The British sensation was definitely happy with his Tokyo 2020 Olympic experience.
Russian Olympic Committee’s Aleksandr Bondar, who was steadily third in the preliminary round and in the semifinals, took fourth place with 514.50 points, which was not his best performance. Compatriot Viktor Minibaev followed Bondar with 495.85 points.
Europe’s youngest champion in history, Ukrainian Oleksii Sereda (461.70 points), now 15 years old, performed consistently to land him the 6th spot in a strong field of competitors. With the lowest DD program due to his age, his stint is considered a success as the rising star has a bright future ahead!
Another young competitor who caught some attention is Rikuto Tamai (431.95 points) of Japan. The 14-year-old diver finished in 7th place.
Finally we share with some quotes from athletes and coaches who have been anticipating this event for five years.
Aleksandr Bondar (ROC), bronze medalist
“This Olympiad is different from the London Olympics due to the limitations that were here. They weren’t significant, but they were nonetheless felt. From my performance, I can say that I was delighted when I managed to win the bronze because my ‘sports piggy bank’ lacked an Olympic medal. It was a dream and a goal to win a medal in the Olympics, and I finally have it in my hands, which I am pleased to have! In fact, I still did not realize that I won a medal since I had to keep myself in shape for the upcoming individual event.
Well, upon arrival home, we fully realized that we are Olympic medalists and winners for our country since we were greeted very coolly – I did not expect such a warm welcome…”
Simon Latimer (New Zealand), referee
“I can say it was exciting to finally have the whole diving community together in a bubble in Tokyo after so few competitions during the pandemic. It was clear that the divers put everything into their performances and had been training as hard as ever. A particular highlight for me was the women’s 10m final event with Quan Hongchan scoring many 10s.”
Quique Martinez (Spain), coach
So, how was the Olympics in terms of limitations? Were limitations too tight?
Not in my opinion. I think all limitations made sense. In fact, with the exception of the ban on leaving the Olympic Village, I didn’t feel too uncomfortable. For instance, at the beginning, they tried to accurately control the maximum capacity of the dryland facilities but after the first week, they relaxed it. So, no tough limitations at all (except that ban I mentioned).
What is your overall impression of the Olympic diving tournament?
Perfect organization. Great diving performances. As usual, not so good prelims because it is difficult to do great dives when you know the world is watching you and you are trying to go forward in the tournament. But the finals were amazing. Remarkable Quan Hongchan on 10m platform girl… wow!!!! Fantastic tribute from the crowd to Ken Terauchi and Rommel Pacheco on their last Olympics… “goosebumps”
Please, highlight X factors (unexpectedly good performing athletes) of this diving tournament, if you can?
– 3m men Woo Haram did great but maybe even better was New Zealand’s Anton Down-Jenkins who was 8th with easy but perfectly done dives.
– Rikuto Tamai and Oleksii Sereda, both withstood the pressure and they are the future of the platform in the world no doubt.
– Biggest upset of the tournament?
Hard to say… Maybe the 8th place of Jennifer Abel in 3m girls. She deserves a medal on her last Olympic appearance.
Alexey Evangulov (Great Britain), head coach
I read the papers and I’m surprised at the vast negativity they wrote about it. As a person who has been through 7 Olympic Games as head of the national team, I compare all these Olympiads according to different criteria. So:
- In terms of the overall organization, this is the best Olympiad since 1996;
- There is nothing to compare with in terms of anti-COVID organization, but I can say that the Japanese have exceeded all my expectations. Good job!
- The Olympic village is the largest and most beautiful;
- The food is almost the best. It was about the same in Sydney 2000;
- Accommodation – very comfortable and environmentally friendly cardboard beds. Organization of room cleaning and linen change – super;
- Laundry: sewed up: Japanese did not expect the athletes to start washing from the first day of arrival. But after 2-3 days, everything worked out and worked smoothly;
- Security in the village is also perhaps the best that I have ever seen;
- The medical center is the best I’ve seen in the Olympic villages. I took the opportunity to have myself an MRI of the lumbar spine. The whole procedure with waiting, registration, scanning, and reading the result took me 35 minutes and was absolutely free. At home, it would take 2-3 months of waiting and from £600;
- The pool is just amazing — the largest I have ever seen in size. But, in beauty, it can only be inferior to the London pool;
- The atmosphere of friendship, respect, willingness to satisfy any of your needs on the part of volunteers – at the highest level;
- The general feeling of positivity is one hundred percent;
- I have only one question for all the media: where do you dig up this negativity?
So it seems that the diving tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics turned out to be so interesting.
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Edited by Aldo Tong