Guo Jingjing cemented her legacy in Olympic diving, and she did it with authority. Guo finished in first in what may, or may not be her final diving competition, winning her second consecutive springboard Olympic gold, her second gold of these Olympics, and the fourth gold of her career.
With her win, she passes another Chinese legend Fu Mingxia, becoming the most decorated female diver in Olympic history with six total medals.
The most impressive thing about her performance was that when the competition got tougher, so did Guo - truly the mark of a champion. She responded to every challenge, and with each successive round, Guo delivered a better list of dives than before.
She was pretty close to perfect in the finals, scoring 415.35 points. To put this in perspective, if Guo were to receive three perfect scores of 10 on each dive, she would have scored 453 points. If she had scored an additional 7.5 points on each dive she would have reached that threshold. Where many of the divers in this competition look at the 70 points on a dive as a goal, Guo dropped below 80 only once.
Throughout the contest, Guo was pushed by 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Yulia Pakhalina. The Russian native, who lives and trains in Houston, won the fifth medal of her career with her silver. Her finals score of 398.6 would have beaten Guo in both the prelims and semifinals, but left her on the short side of a gold medal at the end of finals.
With her performance, Pakhalina ruined the Chinese goal of a sweep on springboard. She finished 8.75 points ahead of Wu Minxia who earned a bronze, the fourth Olympic medal of her career. Wu finished second to Guo in 2004 in Athens, at both the 2005 and 2007 World Championships, and defeated her at the 2008 FINA World Cup. Tonight though, was not her night to defeat Guo, but at the age of 22 she will certainly will get another shot at Olympic gold.
The U.S. medal drought in this event continued as Nancilea Foster and Chistina Loukas finished in eighth and ninth. Heading into the competition, there was optimism that a medal was a possibility based on the improvement by the two divers from prelims to semifinals. Could they build in that momentum? They did until the fourth round of dives, a round that proved to be the undoing for both Americans.
On Loukas fourth round dive, a reverse 2 ½ somersaults in pike, she landed on the end of the board with both feet hanging over the end. Because of that take off and the lack of control over the dive, she over rotated on the entry. The result – scores that ranged from 4 to 6.
For as much as Loukas’ feet were over the end, Foster's feet were short of the end of the board on her fourth round dive, a forward 3 ½ somersaults in pike. Leaving the board like a ski jumper from the Winter Olympics, Foster could not recover from her take off. The result – scores that ranged from 4 to 6.
In the Olympics, you can’t make a mistake in finals and medal, especially against competition such as was seen at the Water Cube.
So now Guo has her six Olympic medals and she can ride off into the sunset as the world’s most successful springboard diver. That was the plan, but she seemed to back off of her statements about retiring from the sport, leaving the door open for a possible return.
At the age of 26, she certainly could return for the competition in London. Yulia Pakhalina showed that it was possible for a 30-year-old to win a medal.
But at 26, she may feel the pull of another life full of sponsorship and star status, and after the glow of these Olympic Games fades, the hours in the pool may not be the life she chooses for the next four years. Who knows? You can bet that there are more than a couple of women out there that hopes she chooses the life of a star.
- China has won the last six women's springboard gold medals; Gao Min (1988, 1992), Fu Mingxia (1996, 2000), Guo Jingjing (2004,2008).
- Since Kelly McCormick's bronze in 1988, the best U.S. finish has been a fourth in 1996; Melissa Moses (4th, 1996), Jenny Keim (8th, 2000), Rachelle Kunkel (9th, 2004).
- Guo Jingjing (China) – 415.35
- Yulia Pakhalina (Russia) – 398.60
- Wu Minxia (China) – 389.85
- Blythe Hartley (Canada) – 374.60
- Tania Cagnotto (Italy) – 349.20
- Anna Lindberg (Sweden) – 342.15
- Sharleen Stratton (Australia) – 331.00
- Nancilea Foster (United States) – 316.70
- Christina Loukas (United States) – 315.70
- Laura Sanchez (Mexico) – 312.25
- Olena Fedorova (Ukraine) – 298.40
- Nora Barta (Hungary) - 269.25
Women’s Olympic Springboard Diving Final Results