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Guo Jingjing sets to defend springboard title
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Triple Olympic champion Guo Jingjing of China is to launch her first step to claim a historic 3m springboard Olympic title on Friday afternoon.

The glamour girl, the oldest diver in the Chinese "dream team" at 27, will try to duplicate the back-to-back 3m titles earned by countrywomen Fu Minxia in 1996 and 2000 Olympics, and Gao Min in 1988 and 1992 Games.

A total of 32 divers will compete in the preliminary starting on Friday afternoon, qualifying 18 into the semi-final, and afterwards, sending 12 into the final battle.

Guo, newly-crowned springboard synchro champion, has won four consecutive gold medals at the World Championships.

Should the overwhelming favorite win both the individual and synchro 3m springboard here she would break the record for most Olympic medals held by a female diver, which currently rests with Fu Mingxia who won five medals during her Olympic career.

Guo may face tough battle from her synchro partner Wu Minxia, Aussie Sharleen Stratton, bronze winner at World Cup earlier this year, as well as Russian veteran Julia Pakhalina, who was bronze medalist in the event at 2004 Athens Olympics.

Wu, Guo's customary strongest rival for gold, proves to be a worthy successor. Currently ranked world No. 5 in the 3m springboard, she finished runner-up to Guo at Athens and the World Championships in 2005 and 2007.

The 23-year-old has, however, upset Guo several times including the Doha Asian Games and the 2008 World Cup.

Guo plans to retire after the Beijing Olympics and wants to go out on a high note on home soil.

"As divers we try to bring out our best performances and I will try to do just that for the Olympics Games and achieve the best possible result," she said.

Spearheaded by Guo, the Chinese Dream Team has so far collected all of the four synchro golds at the Beijing Olympics.

(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2008)

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