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Chinese diver Wu starts an era of her own
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Here she is. Standing on the podium beside outgoing springboard champion and runner-up, third-placed Wu Minxia bids farewell to the shadow of "diving diva" Guo Jingjing and starts an era of her own.

Wu Minxia competes in women's 3m springboard final on Sunday.

Wu Minxia competes in women's 3m springboard final on Sunday. [Xinhua]

The women's 3m springboard final on Sunday evening was probably a swansong show for triple Olympic champion Guo and Russian veteran Julian Pakhalina, who both are considering retirement after the Beijing Olympics.

In an epic battle for the historic springboard gold, both Guo and Pakhalina staged near perfect five movements to pocket gold and silver, leaving the bronze to Wu, who also showed a class of her own despite a glitch in her first attempt.

Cheered on by an emotional capacity crowd, Wu earned the highest 85.50 points in her fourth dive, a reverse two-and-a-half somersault in pike position, outscoring Guo and Pakhalina to top that attempt.

"I showed my best in the competition, and I am satisfied with the bronze. Both the winner and runner-up are too strong," said Wu after the final.

Having collected 10 Olympic and World Championships medals, Wu seems to always finish second to the "springboard queen" Guo, no matter in the Worlds or Olympics.

When she climbs to the top, it is always with her more famed partner in synchro events.

The 22-year-old is expected to carry the Chinese diving standard once Guo is gone.

Born in November of 1985, Wu took up diving when she was in kindergarten. Both of her diving coach and ballet teacher wanted to nurture the pretty girl.

Facing the dilemma, Wu made up her mind to be diver, simply because she loves water.

"I feel bad if I don't touch water for a day," Wu said. "Especially on weekends, when I cannot be in water, I feel terrible. To make myself feel good, I take a shower."

After suffering a hip injury in 1999, Wu found herself anxious before every dive, and sometimes even felt scared.

She then repeatedly "re-run" her dive in her head to boost confidence, then leaped.

"If you want to succeed, first you have to learn how to sacrifice," said the 22-year-old. "As an athlete, as long as you are strict with yourself, you will be rewarded."

Wu, a Shanghai native, jumped to fame when she earned the women's 3m springboard synchro title at the 2004 Athens Olympics with Guo Jingjing.

Not so many people still remember her silver medal in the individual event in Athens, with more attention and cheers reserved for Guo's clear-cut victory.

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