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Eventual gold medalists Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan of China compete during the men's synchronized 10m platform diving final at the Aquatics Center in the Olympic Park on Monday. They won China's second diving gold at the Games. The team is hoping to sweep all eight gold medals on offer in London, bettering the seven it won in Beijing four years ago. Cui Meng / China Daily
Chinese team continues to flummox rest of world with its utter dominance
Nobody can figure out how to beat China in diving, but it's not for lack of trying.
Journalists, coaches and foreign divers all put forth their opinions while China was busy working on sweeping the gold medals at the London Olympics.
It might not happen this generation, but that doesn't mean it's not coming.
"I've followed diving for eight years. I think part of the obstacle for American and other athletes all over the world is not to be intimidated by Chinese divers," David Woods, a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, told China Daily.
"Before anyone can beat the Chinese divers, it's something they've got to believe, and destroy (the obstacle). I expect China will maintain its dominance for some time. But certainly, the US is trying to close the gap. With the help of Chinese coaches, they will catch up."
China's world champions Wu Minxia and He Zi easily won the women's synchronized 3m springboard event on Sunday.
The Chinese won seven diving gold medals in Beijing four years ago and swept all 10 at the 2011 world championships.
Wu and He scored 346.20 points to secure Wu's third consecutive Olympic title, with the United States taking silver and Canada edging Italy for bronze.
Australia's Anabelle Smith, who finished fifth with partner Sharleen Stratton, is weary of China's dominance, but she and her partner believe Australia has a chance to beat China if it continues to work hard.
"It's annoying because it is always the Chinese anthem (during the medal ceremony)," she said. "They are amazing. I feel like they do 10 hours (of training) a day and we do six. They have a different lifestyle than us."
Fellow Australian Matthew Mitcham's success at the Beijing Games has been a source of inspiration.
Mitcham made Olympic history in 2008 with his sixth and final dive, which scored 112.10 points, the highest single-dive total in Olympic history.
It enabled him to snatch gold from favorite Zhou Luxin, denying China a clean sweep.
"It's inspirational. (We should) have more winning stars to inspire the younger generation, to give them confidence," said Smith.
"We also have Chinese coaches. We know how they train. We must keep training, do our best in diving and never give up. Success rewards hard work and determination."
Chinese coaches needed
Canada's Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel won bronze in London under Chinese coach Li Yihua.
Li, who helped Heymans become one of the best athletes in Canadian history, believes Canada's divers need to be able to put in more time.
"There's no comparison between China and Canada so far," Li said. "China is full time, we are training part time. Our divers have to work and make a living. Based on that, we have done a good job as we can compete against the Chinese in international competitions."
Heymans made a name for herself at the 2000 Sydney Games, winning silver with Anne Montminy in the women's 10m synchronized platform.
Although she never was able to top China in major international events, Heymans - who also won bronze in Athens and silver in Beijing - marked herself as an outstanding diver in both the individual and synchronized diving events, winning medals in four consecutive Olympics.
Li said Canada is struggling now, but expects it to bounce back.
"This is an up-and-down sport," Li said. "For us, we are in the down period. I'm sure after years of hard work, more and more talented divers will come out to fight for the gold against the Chinese."
Another former Chinese coach, Yang Zhuliang, is head of the diving team and has lifted it to a competitive level in some events, like men's 10m synchronized platform.
Two women on the team, Pamg Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, advanced to the synchronized spring final, but finished last.
Rinong said she believes China is beatable if divers begin training hard a young age.
"I do not think China has a secret in diving," she said. "We also have very good Chinese athletes and we know how to train and where our problems are.
"The Chinese are just more determined to go all-out in training and competition. Athletes in other countries do not have the willpower to keep going. Also, China has so many young athletes to select. If you don't measure up, you will be dismissed. But in Malaysia, the number of athletes is smaller than a province in China. I hope more young people pick up the sport, start systematic training from a young age and never give up."
(China Daily 07/31/2012 page10)