Russian diver spoils China's gold spree

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Gold medalist Ilya Zakharov of Russia (C), silver medalist Qin Kai of China (L) and bronze medalist He Chong of China attend victory ceremony of men's diving 3m springboard final contest, at London 2012 Olympic Games in London, Britain, on August 7, 2012. [Fei Maohua/Xinhua]

Russian diver Ilya Zakharov spoiled China's gold spree in diving competitions at London Olympics on Tuesday as he turned over China's defending champion He Chong and synchro title winner Qin Kai to win men's 3m springboard.

It is the first gold medal China lost in London after the powerhouse swept all the titles of the previous five events. It also ended China's dominance in the men's springboard event since 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Both Qin and He wept after losing the gold medal. They settled for silver and bronze, respectively.

"He Chong and I have never been defeated by anyone in the event since 2006. But we failed tonight due to lower degree of difficulty to the Russian diver," said Qin. "Nobody expects to lose but everybody may."

"We were very very sad, indeed, but have to face up to the reality," said Qin, who clinched a gold medal in synchronized springboard event six days ago.

"Zakharov did all his highly difficult moves extremely well today, better than us. His incredible performance tonight was beyond my expectation," Qin said.

Qin, who also had a slow lead-off and placed fourth after the first two dives, gradually retook the dominance and got the top position before the final dive.

His last dive was satisfactory but was inferior to Zakharov in terms of difficulty degree.

Zakharov picked the highest score of 104.5 from the final with his last dive, a forward four-and-a-half somersault in tuck position, and upset Qin to take the gold.

He, the defending Olympic champion and winner of the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, was top qualifier in the final. But he had a disappointed start as he flawed in his first dive, back two-and-a-half somersault in pike position, in which he only collected 72 points - the lowest scores of all his six dives.

He dropped to an eighth place after the first round. Later he gradually caught up and managed to turn over Mexican diver Yahel Huerta Castillo in the last round to pocket a bronze medal.

"I did not perform well today, but I started from a near bottom ranking and managed to chase up and finally get a bronze medal. It should be a satisfactory result for me," He said.

"We do have regrets in losing the gold medal," he admitted.

It is the first setback the Chinese "Dream Team" of divers encountered at London Games.

Zakharov had better consistency than the two Chinese divers in the three rounds of competitions - preliminaries, semifinal and final, which contributed to his final success. He upset He Chong to be the top qualifier from the preliminaries and trailed He to place second in the semifinal.

Qin messed up his forward four-and-a-half somersault in tuck position in the preliminary and qualified with a 11th spot. He breezed into the final with a third ranking in the semifinal after He and Zakharov.

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