Host City: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Venue(s): Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro
Date Started: August 10, 2016
Date Finished: August 10, 2016
Format: 3 metre springboard. Six dives. Final round only.
Since its launch at the 2000 Olympics, China has won three of the four menâs synchronized springboard gold medals and [Qin Kai] was hoping for a third consecutive gold medal with [Cao Yuan], with whom he won the 2015 world title. Qin had an outstanding record in springboard diving, particularly the synchronised event. He was the individual silver medalist at London in 2012 and was the synchronised gold medalist in 2008 and 2012 and the gold medal winner at all five biennial World Championships between 2007-15. He came to the Games with an impressive string of results in 2016, having won the synchronised title at all three World Series events in Windsor (Canada), Dubai and Beijing. On each occasion he was partnered by Cao Yuan and it was difficult to see gold going anywhere other than to those two. Cao was a 10-metres synchronised gold medalist in 2012, but did not defend his title, entering the 3-metre event instead. The only serious threat to the Chinese divers seemed to be coming from the Russians [Ilya Zakharov] and [Yevgeny Kuznetsov], runners-up in London 2012 and second to Kai and Yuan at the 2015 World Championship, where the British pair [Jack Laugher] and [Chris Mears] won bronze.
The water in the pool was still the murky green colour it had mysteriously become, but it did not bother Kai and Yuan. It looked as though the Chinese clean sweep of diving golds would continue after the first two rounds when they led from Laugher and Mears and the American duo [Sam Dorman] and [Mike Hixon]. Round three saw the fancied Russians fall further behind after a bad dive and, unusually, the same happened to the Chinese pair as the British lads dived into the lead ahead of China and the United States.
The fourth round saw heavy rain blowing across the board but the America pair were not affected as they went ahead of China and into the silver medal position. The fifth series of dives saw the Chinese pair back into second place while the British duo held on to a 2.64 point lead. Another disastrous round by the Russians, who registered only 63.00 points, saw the 2012 silver medalists out of contention.
The fifth round was shrouded with controversy. The Germans had dived first and their 81.60 temporarily put them in the lead. Next to go were the Mexican divers [Jahir Ocampo] and [Rommel Pacheco]. They just set off on their dive as the stadium lights came on and they completed their dive but insisted the lights had put them off and a re-dive was ordered so they climbed up to the board to take their dive again. At poolside, however, discussions were taking place and it was decided not to allow them a re-dive and they were called back down and after an eight-minute delay the Americans were next to dive. Fortunately the delay did not affect them as they scored a competition best 98.04 and become the new leaders. Great Britain and China, however, still had to dive.
Laugher and Mears put in a great dive and knew that more than 88 points would put them in the lead, which they did with a 91.20. Now only the Chinese could deprive them of gold but, by their normal high standards, Yuan and Kai only managed 83.22 and had to be content with bronze, as Great Britain won its first ever Olympic diving gold, the pair from the Leeds diving club adding this title to the European and Commonwealth ones they already held. For Mears the win had a far reaching significance because he faced life-saving surgery to have his spleen removed in 2009 and spent time in a coma. For China that dream of a clean sweep of medals was over.