by Sara Hussein
China underlined its dominance in the Olympic diving pool on Saturday, with Cao Yuan winning the men’s 10m platform to make it seven golds in eight events for the nation at the Tokyo Games.
Compatriot Yang Jian took silver while Britain’s Tom Daley added the bronze medal to an emotional gold in the 10m synchronised — the only event China failed to win.
Cao and Yang were in pole position throughout most of the 10m platform competition, finishing boh qualifiers and semi-finals in the two top slots.
And Cao was strong from the start in the final, earning three 10s on his first dive, and finishing with 582.35 points, just ahead of Yang, with 580.40.
Daley battled hard, grabbing pole position in two of the six rounds, but a disappointing score for his armstand back three somersaults in round four pushed him down the table and gave his Chinese competitors an opening.
The British diver, who is a prominent voice on gay rights and has won cult status for his hobby of knitting poolside to calm his nerves, ended with 548.25.
Cao, 26, becomes the first athlete to win gold in all three diving disciplines, having taken the 3m springboard top spot in Rio and the 10m synchronised in London.
He took in his win calmly, telling reporters he was “pretty satisfied” and crediting the positive pressure created by his teammates with propelling him.
“It’s healthy competition,” he said. “We want to help each other get better.”
And he said he had no trouble focusing even as he slipped behind Daley during the competition.
“I put the focus on myself and make sure the next dive I perform has no errors,” he added.
‘Worth coming back for’
World champion Yang, who performed the highest difficulty dive of the final, said he “felt I was diving at my level”.
The 27-year-old joked with the official handing over his medal, making for the gold before picking up the silver with a smile and hanging it around his neck.
“Obviously there’s a little regret within me that it’s silver,” he said.
For Daley though there was nothing but smiles.
“I just feel extremely happy with these Games, how they’ve turned out,” said the four-time Olympian, whose years-long pursuit of a gold finally ended last week in the synchronised final.
“I’ve just tried to tell myself to have fun and enjoy it. I’m at the Olympic Games, my fourth one, how cool is that?”
Daley has made headlines out of the pool with his recently acquired love of knitting, which he has described as his “secret weapon” and a way to calm his nerves between dives.
His Instagram account showcasing his creations has more than a million followers and he has harnessed the interest to encourage donations to a brain tumour charity, to honour his father, who died of brain cancer.
Daley paid tribute to his father last week as he won his gold, and said Saturday that the long wait for the medal was worth it because it meant his son was around to witness it.
“My son’s watched me become an Olympic champion, so I’m extremely happy with that,” he said.
He left the door open for a possible return to the Games in Paris in 2024, particularly if a mixed-gender diving competition is introduced.
“That might be worth coming back for,” he said.
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