David Boudia of the US won a surprise gold in diving’s blue riband 10m platform event, handing China their second upset of the Games in the sport.
The gold marks a renaissance in diving by the US, who had not won an Olympic diving medal since Sydney in 2000, but have won four medals in London.
The men’s 10m competition was outstanding for the quality of dives across the field, with no room for even the slightest error and big names, such as Australia’s Beijing gold medalist Matthew Mitcham, failing to qualify for the final.
In a nail-biting conclusion on Saturday that went down to the last dive, Boudia scored 568.65 points, edging China’s Qiu Bo, 19, into silver with 566.85, while British pin-up Tom Daley took bronze on 556.95.
“I just took it one dive at a time,” said Boudia, 23, who won bronze in the synchronized event, but had come within a whisker of dropping out in the preliminaries after qualifying last. “I was so calm, so at peace.”
Boudia, who was afraid of heights as a child, said: “This just shows that the world is coming after China. They’re not all dominant any more.”
Chinese teen sensation and world champion Qiu, who has dominated the event since 2010 and was favorite for the gold, hid his face on the pool wall when the result was announced and he realized that his back 2.5 twisting somersault, the same dive Boudia performed last, earned fewer points than the American’s.
With Russia taking gold in the men’s 3m springboard, Qiu’s silver meant China lost out on two of the eight golds they had been aiming for in London.
“I’m a little bit disappointed, but it’s my first Olympics and I got silver, so I think that’s good enough,” Qiu said. “The dominance in China is a result of everyone’s contribution ... I believe we’re strong enough to get it back some day.”
Home favorite Daley found his groove on Saturday to ear-splitting cheers after he finished outside the medals in last week’s synchronized competition and had a lackluster showing in Friday’s heats.
“Although it’s a bronze medal, to me it’s a gold medal,” said an ecstatic Daley, 18, who punched the air in triumph and jumped into the pool with his team after the result was announced.
Daley sprang to fame in Britain aged 14 when he competed in Beijing and then won the world championship when he was 15, but in the last year he has faced criticism for his focus on media appearances and sponsorship deals, and has also had to deal with losing his father.
In a sign of Daley’s star appeal, he requested and was granted permission to redo his first dive after a galaxy of camera flashes from the audience distracted him as he did his takeoff.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions over the last few weeks, but I’ve got an Olympic medal to show for it, so I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Daley said. “Hopefully, in Rio I’ll be able to change the color.”