Tian Liang would consider retirement if he clinched Athens Olympic Games gold medals in both the individual and synchronized platform events, but now he will have a second thought after ending up with a bronze.
Despite leading the field for four rounds in the individual platform final, Tian suffered from a mediocre third and fourth dives before he was finally surpassed by teammate Hu Jia, runner-up to Tian at the Sydney Olympics four years ago.
"The failure gave me so much motivation for the next Olympics in Beijing. If I had won both gold medals, I would consider retirement," said Tian, turning 25 on Friday.
"Maybe now I will hold on for four more years and fight it out in Beijing," he said.
Tian has been burdened with high expectations after he claimed the platform title in Sydney.
He said he handled the pressure well but little mistakes cost him dear.
"I was rather composed during the competition as I had tried my best to forget all these expectations on me," said one of the most popular sport stars in China.
"I was almost certain after the first two dives that I would defend my title successfully, but competition is just like that. You can never predict what will happen," Tian said, who was the biggest favorite for the title after he won the synchronized laurel here.
Tian had a big margin of over 20 points with the rest of the divers after the second dive but big splashes made in the following two cost him the championship.
Tian had to settle for the bronze in 729.66 after Hu excelled in all six dives with 748.08. Australian Mathew Helm, world championship silver medalist, took silver in 730.56.
"I believe the failure will be a precious treasure for me as in1996, and I will become more mature in the future," he said.
Making his Olympic debut with a fourth-place finish in Atlanta eight years ago, Tian always said that was his biggest ever setback in his life.
"I was so confident to win the title then and the result stung me bad," he recalled.
"But that experience was valuable to me, which prepared me for any possible failure," he said.
Born in midwest city Chongqing, Tian was selected into a local school of physical education at seven by his coach Zhang Ting.
"I did not expect Tian to be a diving genius then because he did just average and there were some others with noticeable talent in his group," Zhang recalled.
"But Tian held on despite whatever setbacks he was met with and now I can say that he is talented and strong-minded. He is a natural making for diving. The harder the dives, the better he can handle," Zhang added.
Tian once was dropped from the provincial squad, which is an indispensable stepping-stone to the national team when he was 10, but he never thought about giving up.
"As long as my coach Zhang didn't drive me away, I would not quit diving," Tian said in retrospect.
He made his way back to the provincial team a year later, this time, in Shaanxi province before he climbed onto the top of the podium in the national championships in 1993 and then joined the national team, where Zhang still coaches him.
(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2004)