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Chinese Obscure Steady Wilkinson

September 24, 2000|From Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — Laura Wilkinson was counting on perfection to catch the Chinese divers. Even that may not be good enough.

Teenagers Sang Xue and Li Na wowed the rest of the world with their consistent excellence off the women's 10-meter platform today.

Wilkinson, of The Woodlands, Texas, was fifth--far behind the Chinese and also trailing two Canadians--after a steady but unspectacular performance in the semifinals.

"If I did my dives the way I know I can, I could be up there with them," said Wilkinson, performing with a foot that was broken in March.

She finished the four-dive semifinal round with 504.24 points, leaving her in the same position she held after the preliminaries. Her coach, Ken Armstrong, said she needed to improve her entry into the water to have any chance of moving up in the evening final.

Fifteen-year-old Sang and 16-year-old Li, continuing China's dominance off the platform, were 1-2 after the preliminaries and held those positions with another display of stunning flips, spins and tucks.

"I love watching them," said American Sara Reiling, who failed to advance to the 12-woman final. "They're amazing. Everything is so tight. Their tucks, their pikes, are so close together. Their entries, I don't know how they do it."

China's women have won four straight Olympic platform titles and give every indication of making it five in a row.

Sang led with 570.90 points, followed closely by Li at 562.89. Anne Montminy of Canada was a distant third at 525.81, with teammate Emilie Heymans totaling 516.42.

Reiling, 21, of Roseville, Minn., was 16th after the preliminaries and moved up three places with a score of 446.91. That wasn't enough to get her into the final, however.

The last time only one American woman reached the platform final was 1968, when Ann Peterson went solo to win bronze at Mexico City.

The American women haven't won a platform gold since Lesley Bush in 1964.

Excluding the 1980 boycott, the Americans have captured at least one diving medal in every Olympics since 1912. That streak could be in jeopardy this year.

Two-time Olympic platform champion Fu Mingxia isn't defending her platform title in Sydney. She will compete in the individual springboard event, getting a chance to repeat her 3-meter gold from Atlanta.

Fu, who won silver in the women's 3-meter synchronized event, is trying to join Americans Greg Louganis and Pat McCormick as the only divers to win four gold medals.

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