Kunkel dives to ninth behind China's 1-2 finish



The U.S. divers could be shut out from medals for the first time in 92 years.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The U.S. divers better start collecting those souvenir Olympic pins.
It sure doesn't appear they'll be getting any medals in Athens.
The Americans are staring at their first medals shutout in 92 years after Rachelle Kunkel finished ninth in the 3-meter springboard Thursday night, far behind a 1-2 finish by the powerful Chinese.
Guo Jingjing easily won her country's fifth diving gold of the Athens Games, while teammate Wu Minxia edged out Russia's Yulia Pakhalina for the silver.
Kunkel, who has to schedule training around her 36-hour-a-week job as a labor and delivery nurse in Los Angeles, readily admitted she was in awe of the Chinese and Russians.
"They're unbelievable," she said.
Once diving superpower
The United States used to be the world's diving superpower, claiming 41 of the 62 gold medals that were available between 1904 -- when the sport made its Olympic debut at St. Louis -- and the '76 Montreal Games.
The balance of power began to shift in the 1980s, though the brilliance of Greg Louganis obscured the decline of American diving.
The Chinese won their first Olympic gold in 1984, and they've been on a roll ever since. They already have matched their record five gold medals from 2000 and could break the mark in the final diving event of the Athens Games, the men's 10-meter platform.
"We just need to come up with something so we can beat the Chinese and stop this process," said Pakhalina, who attends the University of Houston. "We feel a little bit unsatisfied right now."
Imagine how the Americans must be feeling.
Not strong contenders
Their two platform divers, Caesar Garcia and Kyle Prandi, aren't considered strong contenders, so it appears likely this group will join the 1912 team as the only ones that failed to capture at least one Olympic medal.
The Chinese women, on the other hand, have won five straight springboard gold medals.
China won its first springboard gold in 1988, when Gao Min captured the first of two straight titles. Fu Mingxia pulled off the double in Atlanta and Sydney before giving way to Guo, who was the silver medalist four years ago.
Australia's Irina Lashko led heading into the final, but faded badly after a strong first dive. The three-time Olympian, who competed for Russia at the 1992 and '96 games, dropped to seventh.

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