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Divers Aim for Top of the Worlds
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As China's divers make their final preparations for the upcoming World Championships, they know the pressure is on to achieve a gold medal sweep.

After dominating the Doha Asian Games in December, a young 14-member squad led by "diving queen" Guo Jingjing will aim to repeat the success in Melbourne, Australia.

Women's 10m synchronized platform Olympic champion Lao Lishi has lost her place to teenagers Jia Tong and Chen Ruolin, while in the men's team Athens Olympic men's 10m synchronized platform gold medalist Yang Jinghui, 10m platform winner Hu Jia and 3m springboard star Peng Bo are absent through injury.

"We did not include some veteran divers because we want to give a chance to the youngsters. We are eager to see them gain more experience and improve their skills," team manager Zhou Jihong told Titan Sports.

But Zhou dismissed speculation that the team heading to Melbourne has already been pencilled in for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"I do not think the list will have any effect on our selection of athletes to compete at the 2008 Beijing Games. The Olympic selection process just began this year. There is still time for other divers to prove themselves. Young or old, everyone has a fair chance."

Chinese divers must prove themselves in five Olympic qualifying competitions. As well as the Worlds, they have to win as many points as possible at two national championships (2007 and 2008), one stage of the FINA Grand Prix, and next year's World Cup.

Zhou provided the latest news on some of the injury-hit divers.

"Yang has not resumed training since sustaining a shoulder injury in 2005. Hu has just started training after last year's surgery on his eyes so he still needs time to find his form. Peng is still struggling to recover from foot and knee injuries.

"But all of them have a chance of competing in 2008," Zhou added. 

One of the most encouraging developments from the team's month-long training camp in Jinan, Shandong Province, was the resumption of the pairing of Guo and Athens Olympic gold medal winning partner Wu Minxia on the springboard.

After Athens, Guo partnered Li Ting and they won the last world championships in Montreal in a bid to give the latter more experience, but management has decided to enter Li in 1m springboard in Melbourne.

It has not been decided who Guo will partner in 2008, though the result in Melbourne will likely have an impact.

Young hopefuls

On the women's platform, a trio of teenagers will shoulder the nation's expectations. None older than 16, Chen Ruolin, Jia Tong and Wang Xin have already proven their talent in international competition, and the team will be hoping they can cope with the pressure of the Worlds.

The top prospect in the men's team is 20-year-old He Chong. Known for attempting the most difficult dives, He won two Grand Prix meets last year and two golds at the Doha Asian Games.

In the men's platform, Lin Yue, Zhou Luxin and Huo Liang have matured rapidly in recent years and will take the place of out-of-favor icon Tian Liang and Hu Jia.

At the last world championships, Hu collected gold in the men's 10m platform, but China lost the 10m synchronized platform to a Russian pair.

The FINA World Championships run from March 17 to April 1st.

(China Daily March 8, 2007)

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