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Chinese Reaffirm Excellence

SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | DIVING

Diving: Tian and Hu combine for 14 perfect 10s to finish 1-2 in men's platform.

October 01, 2000|DIANE PUCIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — It was no contest. It never was.

In the final diving event of the Olympics, the men's platform on Saturday, Tian Liang of China won the gold and Hu Jia of China the silver.

In the finals the two Chinese men combined to score 14 perfect 10s on various dives. The rest of the 12-man field scored one 10. That went to bronze medalist and defending Olympic gold medalist Dmitry Sautin of Russia.

Mark Ruiz, 21, from Orlando, Fla., finished sixth; two-time Olympian David Pichler, 32, of Butler, Pa., finished ninth.

The totally unexpected women's platform gold by Laura Wilkinson was the only U.S. medal, making this the worst performance by a U.S. Olympic diving team. Not since 1912 has the U.S. not won at least two medals (not including the boycotted 1980 Games in Moscow).

"We got two people in just about every final," U.S. Coach Jay Lerew said. "I think that's good. It's very difficult just to make the finals anymore. I'm pleased with our team."

The Chinese team won five gold diving medals, an Olympic record in a year in which four new events were added--men's and women's synchronized platform and springboard--and they added five silver medals.

Tian, the winner, got five of the 10s and totaled 724.53 points. Hu, a 17-year-old who was a late replacement for an injured teammate, finished with 713.55 points and scored six out of seven 10s (the French judge gave him a 9.5) on his back 3 1/2 somersault in a tuck position.

Bronze medalist Sautin was 45.27 points out of first and not much closer to second. The field was outclassed.

"Diving is China's strong point," Tian said. "There's no secret. It's probably because of our physique and because we work very hard. Being an Olympic champion is every athlete's dream. To win the title is the sweetest."

"As a team," Chinese Coach Zhang Ting said, "we're very satisfied. To get so many golds in the Olympics is quite hard."

The two Chinese divers never gave the field hope in the final round. Tian opened up by scoring three 10s and four 9.5s on his first dive and Hu had one 10 and nothing lower than a 9 on his first dive.

"They were awesome," Lerew said. "When they're on their game, they're unbelievable."

Ruiz had come here expecting to medal. He left with a new appreciation of the Chinese competition.

"It hurts me because I wanted to come through with a medal. I wanted it really bad. I worked so hard and did everything I could do. But I'm not giving up for anything. In the next four years I will come back and get a medal."

Sautin, a three-time Olympian who leaves Sydney with a gold in synchronized platform, silver in synchronized springboard and bronzes in platform and springboard, said, "Every time I see my Chinese colleagues, I see a certain consistency to their performance. I find it more and more difficult to compete with them."

No one would disagree.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Medal Winners

Gold: Tian Liang, China

Silver: Hu Jia, China

Bronze: Dmitry Sautin, Russia

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