China completed a clean sweep of the Asiad diving competition Sunday, snatching its eighth gold medal to reinforce the yawning gulf between them and the rest of Asia.
Olympic and world champion Tian Liang put the icing on the cake with victory in the blue-riband men's 10m platform in the final event of a competition China used as a stepping stone towards the Athens Olympics.
Tian, 22, trailed Xu Xiang by two points after the semi-finals, but bounced back on the first of his six dives in the final, securing a narrow lead that he never gave up.
Xu was given a run for his money by Jo Chol-Ryong of North Korea but sneaked silver on his final dive.
Tian's win ensured China maintained its record of taking every diving gold from the last six Asian Games.
Chinese diving team manager Zhou Jihong said before the event started that the "arch rivals for the Chinese athletes in Busan are themselves", and he was proven right.
But while China took the full monty of medals, there were a few surprises, not least on the women's 10m platform where 15-year-old Lao Li Shi upset Olympic silver medalist Li Na.
Despite her victory, the teenager gave a glimpse into the quest for perfection driven into Chinese divers as they eye the next Olympics.
"I am happy for the title but not satisfied with my performance. I should perform better than this," she said after finishing a massive 90 points ahead of third placed Kim Kyong-Ju of North Korea.
There were more routine wins for women's 3m synchronized world champions Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing, and for Guo in the solo springboard. She too said it was a below par performance.
"I am not satisfied with my performance in Busan as I was not in my best form," said the 21-year-old. "I hope I can have a much better dive in Athens Olympic Games.
"I have collected many golds in international meets, but none in Olympic Games. The only thing I need now is to be an Olympic champion."
While no other nation came close to challenging China's dominance, some individual performances were below par, particularly from world 3m synchronized champions Peng Bo and Wang Kenan.
Wang conceded that they had their work cut out if they were to maintain the edge over Russia at the world championships in Barcelona next year and then in Athens.
"We see Russia as our main challengers and we must keep at it to make sure we can beat them," he said.
North Korea proved the surprise package of the Asiad with the unknown entity taking three silvers and one bronze.
South Korea reinforced its credentials with two silver and a bronze while Malaysia emerged as a dark horse, coming third three times. Japan was the only other nation to win a medal.
(China Daily October 14, 2002)