Chinese sweep first two gold medals



China, the world's diving superpower, is expected to win a lot of medals.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- No surprises in Olympic diving Saturday: China won the first two gold medals in what is expected to be a rather large haul of medals.
Tian Liang and Yang Jinghui took the men's synchronized 10-meter platform title, and Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing won the women's synchronized 3-meter springboard.
While other teams performed a better single round than the Chinese in both the men's and women's events, diving's superpower -- China won 10 of 24 diving medals at the 2000 Games in Sydney -- was simply more consistent.
Tian and Yang won with a score of 383.88 points. Peter Waterfield and Leon Taylor of Britain took the silver with 371.52 and Australia's reigning world champions Mathew Helm and Robert Newbery repeated their bronze medal from Sydney with 366.84.
Tian had teamed with Jia Hu to win the silver in Sydney.
"I lost this gold medal four years ago, so today I feel all the hard work the past four years has paid off," Tian said.
Chinese first or second
Hitting the water at about 34 miles per hour from the highest platform, the Chinese were first or second in each of their five dives, while the British pair started out with a fourth and a sixth before moving into contention in the later rounds.
After the Chinese pair garnered a solid, if unspectacular, 91.80 with their final dive (a back 31/2 somersault pike), Waterfield and Taylor needed 102.42 points (a 9.0 average) in the final dive of the night to win. As soon as the Brits left the platform, however, it was clear that their timing was off in a back 21/2 somersault 21/2 twists pike, and they managed only 90.06 points.
Still, second place was good for Britain: It was the country's first Olympic diving medal since the 1960 Rome Games.
"We were aware of that before we started today," Waterfield said. "This will raise the profile a bit."
The much taller Taylor said part of the problem catching the Chinese was their eighth and final starting position.
"We had to watch all the other divers before us, so that makes it kind of difficult," he said. "But the rest of the world is working hard to catch up to the Chinese. ... And we're getting a little closer, which is making the sport more interesting."
Aussies unhappy
The Australians were unhappy with their bronze and skipped the press conference for medal winners.
Wu and Guo took their title by easily beating their only serious rivals -- the Russian team of Vera Ilina and Julia Pakhalina -- with a score of 336.90 points. Ilina and Pakhalina took the silver with 330.84 and the Australian pair of Irina Lashko and Chantelle Newbery claimed the bronze with 309.30.
Synchronized diving, in which two divers leap at the same time from adjacent boards, made its Olympic debut in Sydney, doubling the overall number of events in the sport from two to four. Nine judges -- two more than for individual diving -- are broken down into a group of four that inspects individual dives and five that review synchronization.
Each of the eight teams perform five sets of dives.
Women's 10-meter platform synchro also will be held Monday. The individual diving competition begins Friday, with nine straight days of competition.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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