LONDON (Reuters) - David Boudia of the United States won a surprise gold in diving’s blue riband 10 meter platform event, handing China their second upset of the Games in the sport.
The gold marks a renaissance in diving by the United States, who had not won an Olympic diving medal since Sydney in 2000 but have won four medals at London 2012.
The men’s 10 meter competition was outstanding for the quality of dives across the field, with no room for even the slightest error and big names such as Australia’s Beijing gold medalist Matthew Mitcham failing to qualify for the final.
In a nailbiting conclusion on Saturday that went down to the last dive, Boudia scored 568.65, edging China’s Qiu Bo, 19, into silver with 566.85, while British pin-up Tom Daley took bronze on 556.95.
“I just took it one dive at a time,” said Boudia, 23, who won bronze in the synchro event but had come within a whisker of dropping out in the preliminaries after qualifying last. “I was so calm, so at peace.”
Boudia, who was afraid of heights as a child, said: “This just shows that the world is coming after China. They’re not all dominant anymore.”
Chinese teen sensation and world champion Qiu, who has dominated the event since 2010 and was favorite for gold, hid his face on the pool wall when the result was announced and he realized that his back two and a half twisting somersault, the same dive Boudia performed last, earned fewer points than the American‘s.
With Russia taking gold in the men’s 3 meter springboard, Qiu’s silver means China have lost out on two of the eight golds they had been aiming for in London.
“I‘m a little bit disappointed but it’s my first Olympics and I got silver so I think that’s good enough,” said Qiu.
“The dominance in China is a result of everyone’s contribution... I believe we’re strong enough to get it back some day.”
Home favorite Daley found his groove on Saturday to ear-splitting cheers after he finished outside the medals in last week’s synchro competition and had a lackluster showing in Friday’s heats.
“Although it’s a bronze medal, to me it’s a gold medal,” said an ecstatic Daley, 18, who punched the air in triumph and jumped into the pool with his team after the result was announced.
Daley sprang to fame in Britain aged 14 when he competed in Beijing and then won the world championship when he was 15.
But in the last year he has faced criticism for his focus on media appearances and sponsorship deals, and has also had to deal with losing his father.
In a sign of Daley’s star appeal, he requested and was granted permission to redo his first dive after a galaxy of camera flashes from the audience distracted him as he did his take-off.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions over the last few weeks but I’ve got an Olympic medal to show for it so I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Daley.
“Hopefully in Rio I’ll be able to change the color.”
Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Alison Williams and Nigel Hunt