It was a historic moment for Hu Jia when the 21-year-old Chinese diver eventually pushed aside long-time rival and teammate Tian Liang for the Olympic platform glory.
"I am so calm right now. I am a little surprised why I can be so calm. I had thought that I would be extremely excited when this day comes," said Hu, runner-up to Tian in the Sydney Olympics.
"Maybe it is because I have made so much effort in the past four years and the victory had not really sunk in," said Hu.
Comparatively a low-profile figure ahead of the Athens Games, Hu trailed defending champion Tian for the first four rounds and performed to perfection in the last two.
He earned five full 10.0s from seven judges after finishing his last dive of back 2 1/2 somersault with 1 1/2 twists and was greeted with long-time thunderous applause and cheers.
Tian had to settle for the bronze in 729.66 after Hu excelled in all six dives with 748.08. Australian Mathew Helm, Barcelona world championship silver medalist, took silver in 730.56.
"Compared to four years ago, I am more mature and composed now. Even during the competition, I didn't feel nervous at all," he said.
Since the Sydney Olympics, Hu has been overshadowed by Tian, always finishing second best to his older teammate, who turned 25 on Friday.
He was sixth in the 2001 Fukuoka world championships where Tian clinched the platform title after taking silver in Sydney behind Tian.
He came fourth at last year's Barcelona Worlds with Alexander Despatie bagging gold and Tian, third, before he once again became runner-up to Tian in the Athens World Cup in February.
"The victory helped me get rid of the shadow and raise my confidence," Hu admitted.
But Hu would rather put his rivalry with Tian behind and start to set his sights on the next Olympics in Beijing.
"Tian is a very good diver. Although I beat him this time, we have to start from zero and get prepared for the next Olympics," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2004)