I’ve seen a lot of great athletic contests, both over the airwaves and in person. And what I witnessed on Saturday ranks with the best of them. No one quit, no one rolled over, and it was a battle until the end.
The men’s 2012 Olympic platform final centered on three outstanding divers, and to understand how the event evolved, you need understand a bit about the three.
Qiu Bo – Chinese platform diver extraordinaire. The 2011 world champion and another one of the many divers anointed with the task of extending the Chinese domination in the sport of diving. What basketball is to the U.S., diving is to China. Losing is not an option. Much is, and will continue to be, expected of Qiu Bo in the world of diving. The pressure to succeed for China no doubt dwarfs that of his own personal goals.
Tom Daley – The face of British Diving, and in many ways of the London Olympic Games. A wildly popular figure in Great Britain and the focus of an enormous amount of media scrutiny. His father tragically passed away last year, and as recently as two weeks ago, Daley was the recipient of threats on twitter. The pressure on the 2009 world champion mounted after a sup-par showing in the men’s synchronized platform.
David Boudia – Much like Tom Daley, Boudia is the face of USA Diving – the national governing body for the sport in the U.S. He was the diver given the best chance to end a 12 year drought of medals for the U.S., once the undisputed champion of Olympic diving. U.S. fortunes have dropped precipitously in the last four quadrenniums with no individual medals since 2000, and no individual medals for the men since 1996. A silver won by Boudia at the 2011 World Championships had given USA Diving tempered enthusiasm that the drought might end. Needless to say, much was expected of Boudia.
If the pressure of competing in the Olympic Games is not enough, then for these three divers their personal circumstances ramped it up.
Add to that the fact that Daley and Boudia were oh close to not making it out of the preliminaries; the stage was set for a dramatic and tension filled final.
Ninth in the diving order, Tom Daly was the first of the three to dive, executing a back 2 ½ somersaults with 2 ½ twists that received mediocre scores of 7’s, and a lot of flash bulbs.
Daley called foul. The British crowd at the London Aquatic Centre was so enamored with him that many ignored the constant pleas from the event organizers and announcers to “refrain from flash photography.”
These visual clues usually involve the water, the ceiling, and the springboard or platform. So imagine trying to look for those clues while spinning and twisting … with a strobe light in your face. It’s not easy.
Now whether the flash photography truly effected Daley on his dive, only he knows. But he was well within his rights to request a redive. And from a competitor’s perspective, if you have that option to win an Olympic medal, use it.
Daley did and scored 16.2 more points than his first dive, totaling 91.8 for the redive and it was game on.
For the next four rounds these three divers battled at an unbelievable level. Dive after dive was better than before. No one was giving ground and each time a dive hit the water, another jaw dropped.
At the end of four rounds; David Boudia, Qiu Bo and Tom Daley were 1-2-3, separated by only 5.75 points. And incredibly, each diver had averaged over 90 points per dive!
Round five would ratchet up the tension to greater heights as David Boudia’s fifth round dive was just a notch below the two great dives by Qiu Bo and Daley. The result … the partisan London crowd went absolutely crazy when the scoreboard reflected that Tom Daley was leading with one dive to go.
It could not have been scripted better, the three divers with the most to gain and the most too loose, were separated by 0.15 points – Daley in the lead with Qui Bo and David Boudia tied for second.
It was now a one dive contest. The diver with the highest score would become Olympic champion and take home the gold.
Also at this point, the diving was so great and the competiveness so pure, that it was like the nationalism that surrounds the Olympics seemed to melt away and the pure joy of competition was truly evident. This was definitely an E ticket at Disney World.
And so it began, with Daley the first of the three to dive. His final dive was a reverse 3 ½ in tuck which because of a lower degree of difficulty (3.3) than Boudia or Qiu Bo, put him at a disadvantage.
Just as he had done since that first round dive, Daley set the bar at a high level receiving scores of 9, 9.5, and one 10. His dive assured him of a medal, but what color would be decided in the next three dives.
Boudia was next and he delivered in a way that even he could not have imagined. He averaged scores of 9.5 and scored 102.6 points – the highest scoring diving in the contest … so far.
The final diver was Qiu Bo and he was doing the same dive as Boudia. To win the gold he would need to score two 9.5’s and a 10. You might think that this is almost impossible but do you remember what happened in 2008? I do.
Matthew Mitcham of Australia gets four 10’s on his final dive, scores 112.1 points and wins the gold medal. The fat lady never sings until the final diver hits the water.
Qiu Bo’s dive was good. It was really, really good. But really, really good was not good enough and his 100.80 points left him in second, Tom Daley in third, and David Boudia of the United States as the new Olympic champion.
It was an interesting scene as Boudia stood in shock while getting a hug from teammate Nick McCrory (who finished in ninth), Qiu Bo stood dejected in the shower with his head against the wall, and almost the entire British contingent in the pool, clothes and all.
A fitting end for one of the most exciting athletic contests the Olympic Games has ever seen. Heck, even Qiu Bo cracked a smile on the awards podium.
And no doubt Morgan Freeman was sitting on the edge of his seat getting ready for his voice over!
- David Boudia (United States) – 568.65
- Qiu Bo (China) – 566.85
- Tom Daley (Great Britain) – 556.95
- Victor Minibaev (Russia) – 527.80
- Jose Guerra (Cuba) – 527.70
- Lin Yue (China) – 527.30
- Ivan Garcia (Mexico) – 521.65
- Martin Wolfram (Germany) – 506.55
- Nick McCrory (United States) – 505.40
- Sascha Klein (Germany) – 496.30
- Riley McCormick (Canada) – 493.35
- Oleksandr Bondar (Ukraine) – 443.70
Men’s Olympic Springboard Diving Final Results