BARCELONA, Spain, July 19. SEVERAL nations found themselves fighting for the gold in the men's 10-meter platform diving, not just the Chinese. In prelims, the top five spots were held by divers from five different countries: China, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and Mexico.
An added attraction was the high degree of difficulty(DD) dives done by non-Chinese divers including 3.8 (DD)-- an almost unbelievable level of difficulty.
The explosion of high DD dives is more exciting in the platform. Progress in springboard owes much to better technology, with the boards becoming increasingly flexible through the years.
A surprise in the preliminary round was Tian Lian missing his first, third and fifth dives, half the program, leaving him in sixth position, an unusually low one for him.
China's Hu Jia was the clear favorite after this first round where he built up a 10 point lead on Canada's Alexandre Despatie. In the semifinal, Hu moved further into the lead, adding 212.01 points to his 471.60 from the prelims to hold a more than 20 point lead going into the final.
In the final round Hu corrected a mistake he made in the morning in his handstand dive, 3 somersaults back pike position, and proved that a clean execution makes him virtually unbeatable.
Hu took a risk by including a 3.8 (DD) dive (2-1/2 back with 2-1/2 twists) as one of his final dives. He was nervous at trying this one and he missed it badly with poor marks of 4.5 - 5.5.
This was the moment the other contenders were waiting for. Despatie immediately moved into the lead on the next dive, and then came the clincher. He tried the same dive that Hu missed but he nailed it receiving marks of 9.5 - 10 from the judges. The total points were a record , giving him a 19 point advantage as the silver went to Australia's Matthew Helm.
Despatie was considered the most promising diver even while he competed at the junior level. In Fukuoka he was second in the platform and today he becomes Canada's first-ever male world champion diver.
Justin Dumais (Ventura, Calif.) took 10th place with a score of 590.34 points.
Mark Ruiz (Orlando, Fla.) missed advancing to the semis by only one place, taking 19th in the preliminary round with a score of 376.20.
(Courtesy: Fina & USA Diving)