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China faces challenges in individual events
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China has asserted its supremacy in synchronized diving at the Beijing Olympic Games, as it has pocketed all the four gold medals offered in the synchro events. However, it would be much harder for the host divers to make a sweep in the individual events.

"We have very strong rivals who are waging tough fights in the coming individual events," said Zhou Jihong, team leader of the Chinese diving "dream team."

"Everything is possible at the Olympic Games, which differ a lot from other competitions," Zhou warned. "We have to go all out to fight in each event, and never treat them as a piece of cake in hand."

The most difficult event for the host should be the men's 10m platform.

The high dive has been a problem for China since the retirement of Sydney Olympic gold medalist Tian Liang. Meanwhile, Hu Jia, the individual gold medalist in Athens, was kept out of the squad by injuries.

China lost the gold in the event at the 2007 Melbourne worlds as Russian Gleb Galperin beat the Chinese favorite Zhou Luxin and Lin Yue for the title.

It was also the only gold China lost in the 2008 FINA Diving World Cup as Germany's Klein Sascha was crowned, who is also in the start list of the 10m platform at these Games.

Although Chinese teenagers Lin Yue and Huo Liang clinched the synchro gold on Monday, it could be seen from the final that other divers were all quite in form.

Galperin, who finished third in Monday's final with partner Kmitriy Dobroskok, eyes to beat the Chinese again as he did in the 2007 Worlds, while another arch rival, Sascha Klein, is also in great form as he took the silver in the synchro platform with Patrick Hausding.

The threat to China may also come from Cuba's Jose Guerra, winner of the 2007 Pan American Games.

Thomas Daley of the Great Britain, who turned 14 in May, is also barging into China with momentum. He became the youngest person ever to win a gold medal in the 10m Platform at the 2008 European Championships in March. Although his result on the synchro platform is not good, but the teenager has made up his mind to do a good job in the individual event.

Zhou Luxin and Lin Yue, runner-up and bronze medalist of the event respectively in the 2007 Melbourne Worlds, are centered on great expectations.

In the men's 3m springboard, Qin Kai, winner of the 2007 Melbourne worlds, and He Chong, gold medalist at the 2008 World Cup, are both hot favorites. And in the men's 3m synchro, Qin Kai has paired with veteran Wang Feng to pocket the gold in the 2007 Melbourne worlds.

However, they may meet strong challenges from Russian "diving czar" Sautin and Canadian "golden boy" Despatie. At 34, Sautin is still a threat to the Chinese divers, as he just took a silver on Wednesday's 3m springboard synchro with partner Yuriy Kunakov.

The diving icon has decided to make a perfect curtain call in Beijing. "It will be my last Olympics. I will do my best in the individual," said the veteran on Wednesday. "We'll see what happens."

In the women's 10m platform, teenager Wang Xin and Chen Ruolin, winner and runner-up of the 2007 Melbourne worlds, are no wonder front runners. They won the 10m platform synchro gold on Tuesday.

But rivals like Melissa Wu of Australia, Paola Espinosa of Mexico, and Laura Wilkinson of the United States are not giving up.

At 16, Melissa Wu made a perfect Olympic debut on Tuesday's final, as she took the silver on the 10m platform synchro with partner Briony Cole. Espinosa, Mexico's best diver and bronze medalist on Tuesday, also expects a good result in the individual.

Wilkinson, winner of the 10m platform in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, also eyes a medal to finish her diving career.

The women's 3m springboard might be a little easier compared with other events. 26-year-old Guo Jingjing, who just won the 3m springboard synchro with fellow Wu Minxia, is no doubt an overwhelming favorite.

The "diving queen" was the winner of both individual and synchronized events on the 3m springboard in four consecutive world championships, from the 2001 Fukuoka Worlds to the 2007 Melbourne Worlds.

"I don't want to think too much about it," Guo said. "I will just try and do my best."

The 22-year-old Wu, who often followed Guo in the 3m springboard competition, including that of the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2007 Melbourne World Championships, is another strong contender for the Beijing Games title.

China has an undisputed domination in diving. The Chinese diving team claimed five golds at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and bagged a record six at the 2004 Athens Olympics, contributing more Olympic golds for China than any other Chinese teams.

The Chinese divers flexed their muscles to sweep all eight golds during the last meet of the FINA Diving Grand Prix in Rome in June, and they hope to repeat the feat in the home pool in Beijing.

(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2008)

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