By M. Duncan Scot
ATHENS, Greece, August 28. THERE were four big guns. The least among them going into the final was HU Jia. Good things can happen, though, when you dive consistently and finish well.
Did we say finish well? Maybe a deeper vocabulary search is needed. Try: possibly the finest final round in diving history.
Hu scored at least one 10 on four of six final round dives. And it wasn’t just that a solitary judge from a friendly country liked his style. Six of the seven judges gave him a 10 at some point, a total of 11 scores of 10. The last judge just didn’t get it. That dissident judge hated Hu’s performance so much that he awarded him an 8, an 8.5, three 9s and a 9.5 on the six dives!!
Did we say he finished well? Not just that the final round was phenomenal but that he finished well? Hu maintained his fourth place through three dives with solid totals of 83.7, 79.56 and 84.15, scoring among the top 5 of the 12 finalists with each dive. Then the fireworks began.
His fourth round brought 93.45 (one 10), second highest score of the round but highest among the leaders, which moved him to second behind his teammate Tian Liang.
Tian, you may recall, had given a Nameth-esque guarantee of victory after the semifinal round and seemed on his way to backing up his brag. Tian had moved into the lead after one round of the final and held it through four dives, but with an 11 point gain in round four Hu had cut the margin to about 2.
And then Hu let out the throttle. He scored 98.94 points (four 10s), obviously the highest score of the round, to move into the lead.
But not quite as obvious as one might think. It was a great round, with five divers hitting over 90. One of those was Tian, who didn’t give up the lead easily, hitting three 10s on his way to 92.16, to tail Hu by only 4.14 points going into the last round of dives in this Olympiad.
The dive order was based on totals after the prelims and semis. Of the four guns, Hu dove ninth, Tian tenth, Alexandre Despatie of Canada 11th and prelim leader Mathew Helm of Australia 12th.
A champion closes the deal. On this night, Hu Jia was a champion on a roll. His final dive was the finest of the entire competition, one of the finest in history. A 100 point dive!! 100.98 to be exact.
3.4 Degree of Difficulty. Of seven judges, five 10s and two 9.5s. Drop the high and low and you have four 10s and a 9.5 for 49.5 raw score, one-half point from consensus perfection. Multiply by the degree of difficulty and then by 0.6 as calculation under the rules requires — 100.98.
Hu Jia, China, wins the gold (748.08) and a place in diving history.
Three divers yet to go. How will they respond when the gold has been closed out. Tian, he of the guarantee he couldn’t back up, scored 86.7 (729.66), a good dive but just deflated enough to leave the door to silver open just the tiniest crack.
Going into the last round world champion Despatie was just over 20 points out of the lead. Even if he matched Hu’s final mark, he would still be about a point and a half behind Tian for silver. He was clearly down a bit, having only the 10th best score of the last round, and finished with 707.46. He had gained nearly 40 points on the rest of the field in the finals but, obviously, lost ground to the medalists.
The final dive was Helms’. He had a chance to show his champion’s mettle in the battle for a medal as well. He saw that miniscule crack left open by Tian. He took it!
Doing the same final dive as Hu, Helms scored a 9, two 9.5s and four 10s. Drop high and low. Raw score 49. Dive total: 99.96 Total score: 730.56.
Silver medal champion Mathew Helm of Australia slipped past Liang Tian by 0.90 points on the last dive of Athens 2004.
Whew! What a contest!! It was contest that will no doubt be recalled many years for being full of champions, with one who shone above the rest when it counted most.
Rank Name NOC Semi-final Points Final Points Total Points Points Behind
1 HU Jia CHN 207.3 540.78 748.08
2 HELM Mathew AUS 209.34 521.22 730.56 17.52
3 TIAN Liang CHN 209.04 520.62 729.66 18.42
4 DESPATIE Alexandre CAN 209.46 498 707.46 40.62
5 WATERFIELD Peter GBR 180.51 488.73 669.24 78.84
6 TAYLOR Leon GBR 195.09 468.03 663.12 84.96
7 MEYER Heiko GER 184.35 462.21 646.56 101.52
8 NEWBERY Robert AUS 193.98 446.67 640.65 107.43
9 DELL'UOMO Francesco ITA184.29 444.48 628.77 119.31
10 PACHECO Rommel MEX 182.79 440.61 623.4 124.68
11 DOBROSKOK Dmitry RUS 189.87 432.36 622.23 125.85
12 URAN SALAZAR Juan COL 177.27 428.19 605.46 142.62