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LONDON, England, August 7. CHINA'S bid to sweep the diving gold medals at the London Olympics was halted by Russia's Ilya Zakharov, who used a superb final dive to keep the Chinese at bay and win gold in his first Olympic Games.
Zakharov scored 555.90 points, with China's Qin Kai earning silver with 541.75 points. He Chong, the defending champion, earned bronze after clawing his way back from as low as seventh in the rankings.
The situation was similar to 2008, when China's run for eight golds in diving was spoiled in the men's individual platform by Australia's Matthew Mitcham, who vastly outscored the Chinese on his final dive to take gold. Today's win marks Russia's first diving gold medal since 2000, when Igor Lukashin and Dmitri Sautin won the platform synchro event.
“I didn't think about the competition at all,” Zaharov said. “I took each dive as a separate instance. I didn't know about my positioning until after the fifth dive. The last dive was most difficult for me because during the previous competition, a mistake at that stage cost me a medal.”
Though Zakharov, the reigning world championship silver medalist in this event, was the most consistent performer throughout the rounds, it was his sixth and final dive that cemented the victory. The Russian scored 104.50 points on his forward four-and-a-half somersault, getting two 10s that were not counted per diving rules. Those were the only 10s awarded during the finals. Qin could only muster 89.10 points on his last dive, a reverse two-and-a-half somersault with one-and-a-half twists.
He Chong was the top diver after this afternoon's semifinals, but all 12 participants in the final started the competition with zero points. Also trying to spoil the Chinese domination was Mexico's Yahel Castillo, who was leading the rankings after the fourth of six rounds, and Germany's Patrick Hausding, who had switched from platform to springboard after winning silver in the synchro platform event in 2008.
Hausding placed fourth with a score of 505.55, with Castillo falling to sixth on the final round after scoring only 64.75 points on his reverse two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists.
Troy Dumais of the United States was never in the medal hunt, averaging 83 points per dive to place fifth with 498.35. Dumais can take some small celebration in the fact that he moved up in placing in 2012, having finished sixth in this event in 2008.
Zakharov's final dive wasn't the only 100-plus point dive in the competition. Great Britain's Chris Mears scored 100.70 points on the same dive Zakharov performed. Mears was a surprise entrant into the final, and fed off the crowd's enthusiasm to finish ninth with 439.75 points.
Australia's Ethan Warren (seventh, 488.95), Ukraine's Illya Kvasha (eighth, 462.25), Malaysia's Ken Nee Yeoh (10th, 437.45), Canada's Alexandre Despatie (11th, 41.335) and Spain's Javier Illana Garcia (12th, 371.60) also competed in the final.
Chris Colwill of the United States was part of the semifinals earlier today, but could not qualify for the final, placing 18th with a score of 339.80. Colwill was in good position to qualify for finals, but faltered badly on his fifth dive, an inward three-and-a-half somersault that scored only 28.90 points. Instead of attempting his final dive, a reverse three-and-a-half somersault, Colwill simply performed a reverse dive, scoring zero points.