China won its seventh gold in eight diving events at the Rio Olympics, showing off the superpower’s depth with a less heralded champion in men’s 10-metre platform.
Chen Aisen claimed the title with 585.30 points Saturday night, displaying the greatest consistency throughout the six-round contest. Three times he topped 100 points on his dives, closing the contest with one that earned perfect scores of 10.
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“I never thought I would get this medal for diving and I am still in a state of shock,” he said through a translator.
Chen hit a back 2 1/2 somersaults with 2 ½ twists, barely making a splash as he sliced the water for 108.00 points — the highest score of anyone in the final.
“There’s a lot of young guns in this sport now,” defending champion David Boudia said, “and it’s cool to see them step up their game.”
Chen had never won a major international 10-meter individual title, having more success in synchronized platform, winning gold in Rio and at last year’s world championships. The 20-year-old diver gave China its first win in the event since 2004.
“It’s because he didn’t really think a lot so he performed well,” said Chen’s teammate Qiu Bo, who finished sixth. “His example gave me the feeling that I have nothing to be upset about because it’s the Olympic Games and it’s either him or me who gets the gold medal. It’s all the same because we are all Chinese.”
German Sanchez of Mexico earned silver at 532.70 for his country’s first individual men’s medal since Fernando Platas won silver on 3-metre springboard at the 2000 Sydney Games.
“This means everything. A few times people didn’t believe in me. A few times people have talked bad about me and now this,” Sanchez said. “I kept hearing chants of ‘Mexico, Mexico’ and this really helped me out a lot. It felt like a Lucha Libre fight, which I love.”
Boudia took bronze at 525.25. The American was second going into his last dive, but missed on a forward 4 ½ somersaults.
“This dive has been like a thorn in my side the past four years,” Boudia said. “My takeoff is absolutely perfect and I cannot find the bottom to save the life of me, obviously. I chose to do it at the very end of this competition because I wanted that pressure. I live off those nerves. It didn’t go my way this time.”
His score of 68.45 was his worst of the night and he had to watch anxiously for nine other divers to finish before knowing he’d gotten on the podium again.
“You’re doing 18 dives off a three-story building, your body’s beat up, you’re tired, mentally exhausted,” Boudia said. “I’m glad to be standing here with a bronze medal around my neck.”
Qiu earned silver four years ago in London, when Boudia narrowly defeated him. He was second after his first dive and then botched his second and fifth dives, leaving him too far back to medal again.
“I’m a little bit upset about that, but I think it is necessary to have this kind of failure and pain,” Qiu said through a translator. “This shows the value of the medal and the value of my dream.”
Tom Daley of Britain, who was third in London, surprisingly didn’t make the final. He led after the preliminaries, but finished last among 18 divers in the semi-finals.
The only gold the Chinese missed was in men’s synchronized 3-meter, won by Britain. China settled for bronze to go with silvers in women’s 3-meter and 10-metre. Wu Minxia became the most decorated female diver in Olympic history, winning synchro springboard for her fifth gold and seventh career medal.
The U.S. finished with three medals, all in men’s competition. Boudia and Steele Johnson took silver in synchro platform and Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon won silver in synchro springboard.