They make it look easy: crisp gymnastics through the air, knifing impact with the water and barely a splash upon entry.
But diving is a grueling sport, requiring years of training from a young age. Some divers suffer from damage to their eyes, like detached retinas, from constant impact with the water. And for all that training, an Olympic performance comes down to a few seconds of twists and turns. There is no margin for error.
On Sunday, Shi Tingmao of China won gold in the 3-meter springboard event. Her teammate, Wang Han, took silver, underlining China’s dominance of this precision sport, in which perfection must be achieved in a couple seconds. Krysta Palmer of the United States rounded out the medals with bronze.
Shi, a 29-year-old veteran who started her athletic career at age 6 as a gymnast before switching to diving five years later, unleashed an inward 2 1/2 somersaults pike for her first dive and capped it with a forward 2 1/2 somersaults 1 twist pike for her fifth and final dive. Her score of 383.50 dominated the rankings, with Wang scoring 348.75.
At the 2016 Rio Games, Shi captured gold in both the 3-meter springboard and the 3-meter synchronized events.
Diving routines unfold so quickly that they look like a video on fast-forward. The judges must make almost equally rapid verdicts on the athletes’ performances.
The Chinese Olympic diving team, nurtured in state training facilities from early elementary school age, has dominated the competition for years.
In Tokyo, they have struck gold in the women’s synchronized 3-meter event, the women’s synchronized 10-meter platform event and the men’s synchronized 3-meter event. The only gold that has eluded the squad so far was in the men’s synchronized 10-meter platform event, in which they took silver.