By Brenda Goh
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Chen Aisen claimed Olympic gold in the men’s 10 meter platform event on Saturday to help China take home seven out of Rio’s eight diving golds, while Mexico’s German Sanchez and American David Boudia took the silver and bronze.
Chen, at his first Olympics, showed consistency throughout his dives, gaining high scores to total 585.30 with his tight spins and clean entries into the water even as his rivals, including team mate Qiu Bo, stumbled.
“I didn’t think I would win two gold medals,” said Chen, who with Lin Yue won the 10 meter synchronized event. “I just wanted to dive well in the individual event, to show off my ability… I managed to win because I was calm throughout.”
His win meant that the only diving gold China failed to take in Rio was in the men’s 3 meter springboard event where they took the bronze instead.
Boudia, who won gold in London, recovered from a poor semi-final performance, where he finished 10th, to acquire 525.25 points. His final lower-scoring dive pushed him down to third position at the last minute behind Sanchez who scored 532.70.
“This dive has been a thorn in my side,” Boudia said of his sixth dive, a forward 4-1/2 somersaults tuck, which gave him his lowest score of 68.45.
“My take-off is absolutely perfect but I cannot find the bottom to save the life of me. But I chose to do it at the end of this competition because I wanted that pressure… It didn’t go my way this time,” he said.
For some at home in Mexico, Sanchez’s second place was a surprise as he had gone into the final in ninth place and had finished the earlier synchronized event with partner Ivan Garcia in fifth. Garcia had qualified third from the semi-final but eventually finished 10th.
“Actually after the last event there was a lot of talk about me and of course there were a lot of comments,” said Sanchez. “But of course we know that there’s a saying that God will never let his children be humiliated.
“When I won (silver) I felt very peaceful and it’s fantastic to go back home with my medal; it’s a privilege, it’s an honor.”
London 2012 silver medalist Qiu, ended the competition in fifth place despite scoring a perfect 10 from all six judges on his third dive, after low scores of 47.25 and 47.50 on his second and fifth attempts knocked him out of the running for a podium spot.
Tom Daley of Britain, who had been expected to be a strong medal contender, was ousted in the semi-finals after he botched three of his six dives to come in last. He had topped the preliminaries on Friday.
“There are always a lot of frustrations and difficulties when you’re pursuing a dream, it wouldn’t be called a dream if it was that easy to fulfill,” said Qiu, when asked how he felt about missing the Olympic gold medal for the second time.
“I had some issues with my state of mind when competing today but I don’t want to find excuses because I didn’t dive well. I can only accept today’s result. I’ve worked hard, I have no regrets.”
Boudia said such surprises were intrinsic to the sport.
“It’s a long 24 hours… you’re doing 18 dives off a three-storey building, your body’s beat up, you’re tired, mentally exhausted.
“On any given day anyone can win. You just saw what Qiu Bo did, you just saw what Tom Daley did, get 18th place in the semi-finals. This is a hard, hard sport, and that’s what we love about it.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)