Dominant Chinese divers vie for golden sweep in Paris

HONG KONG: China bagged seven out of the eight diving golds at the last two Olympics and in Paris will aim to become the first country to sweep all the titles at a Summer Games since the United States in 1952.

While Chinese athletes similarly dominated the diving events at the first two world championships after the Tokyo Olympics, there was some encouragement for their rivals in Qatar earlier this year when four golds went to other nations.

China sent a team with a mix of experience and emerging talent to Qatar but will be back at full strength when the Olympic gold medals are on the line at the Paris Aquatics Centre from Jul 27 to Aug 10.

Foremost among their defending champions is Quan Hongchan, who became an overnight sensation in China after winning Tokyo gold at the age of 14.

The main threat to her bid to retain the women’s 10m platform title is likely to be teammate Chen Yuxi, the silver medallist from three years ago.

The duo have been dubbed China’s “double insurance” for Paris with expectations high that they will win the synchronised 10m platform title together before batting it out for individual gold.

“It doesn’t matter which of us gets the gold,” Quan told local media in May. “As long as it is China’s, it’s okay.”

The scenario is similar in the women’s 3m springboard where world number one Chen Yiwen has won every single title this year except in Doha when her teammate Chang Yani snatched gold.

The pair, best friends and both first-time Olympians have won the 3m synchronised event in most world tournaments over the last couple years.

Chang, however, is recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in March, which she feels could impact her performance and the pair’s chances of winning China’s first gold in Paris.

“I am not a gifted athlete and I really need to keep training to stay where I want to be,” Chang told CCTV in May.

“Three weeks rest is the longest I’ve ever had in my life and this is a really heavy blow to me.”

There should be stronger competition for the Chinese divers in the men’s events.

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