Day 11 at the Olympics in Rio saw us return to the now aqua marine-coloured diving pool for the final of the Individual 3m Springboard Final. Newly crowned Olympic champion Jack Laugher fought his way through a blustery preliminary round which saw the shock exit of China’s Chao He who is the current world champion in this event. 29 divers were competing for 18 places in the semi-final. The wind caused a few stumbles and poor dives and literally blew the competition wide open. Fellow Team GB diver Freddie Woodward just missed out on a semi-final place, coming 19th with 388.15 points for his six dives. Laugher took 7th place with 439.95. 59 points separated Laugher from China’s Yuan Cao who came in first with 498.70.
The semi-final saw a further slimming down of the competition with 12 places up for grabs in the final. Another surprise came with defending Olympic Champion Llia Zakharov of Russia performing some sloppy dives with a knee buckle causing a great splash. Zakharov only just scraped into the semi-final, ahead of Woodward by less than two points, and now he’s out. Conditions were pretty much perfect for this round but time after time, on similar dives, there were over-rotations (“Banana men”, to quote BBC Commentator Leon Taylor), some more near-misses with the diving board.
Fellow Yorkshire-man Yona Knight-Wisdom (representing Jamaica) joined Laugher in the semi-final. Laugher left us, as viewers, very anxious about whether he would make the final, with a mix of scores. Two of his six dives scored over 80 points, so things were tense. Germany’s Patrick Hausdning had just one dive that scored over 80 points and two below 50. He scored 413.5, however, giving him 10th Place.
For those new to diving, seven judges score the dive. The top two and the bottom two scores are ignored and the remaining three are multiplied by the degree of difficulty of the dive. Higher degrees of difficulty can make or break your final score which is a combination of the six dive scores.
We had to wait for the final dive from Laugher to see whether he would qualify. He just snuck into 12th place with 389.4 – less than two points ahead of Italian Michele Benedetti. China’s Yuan Cao came first again with a score of 489.10.
Despite the surprises thrown up so far, the good news is the scores don’t carry over from each round. The divers start again with a clean slate and everything to play for.
Laugher was first to dive in the final with a forward 2.5 somersault with two twists (3.4 difficulty). He started strong, just off perfect vertical entry, and this got him 8.0s across the board with an 8.5 being eliminated, scoring 81.60. This was a marked improvement from his 64 score in the preliminary round for the same dive.
Kristian Ipsen of the USA, who was consistent bar one dive in the semi-final, opened with a back 2.5 somersault with pike and took 72. Cesar Castro of the host nation surprised many when he took a spot in the final, opening with a forward 2.5 somersault with one twist, and scored 72. Canada’s Philippe Gagne, the youngest competitor, matched Ipsen and Castro. Mike Hixon of America did a back 2.5 somersault with pike not vertical on entry, which knocked his score to 60. Russian Evgenii Kunetsov matched Laugher with an inward 3.5 somersault with tuck which scored 81.60. China’s Cao Yuan performed an inward 3.5 somersault with tuck and scored 85 – taking the lead after round one.
Laugher’s second dive, a reverse 3.5 somersault with tuck, took 91 points compared to 47 in the semi-final and 75 in the preliminary round. Laugher was letting his competition know he had turned up to the competition. Patrick Hausding of Germany scored 89.25 for his reverse 3.5 somersault with tuck. Yuan was spot on with a 3.5 twist with 1.5 somersault scoring 94.5. This placed him ahead of Laugher, who led the entire round up to Yuan’s dive. Just 7 points separated the gold and silver positions.
Dive three, an inward 3.5 somersault with tuck, saw Ireland’s Oliver Dingley score 81.6 in the semi-final beaten in the final with 90.1. Oliver Dingley, who trains in Harrogate, was keeping within touching distance of a medal. Dingley, Ireland’s first Olympic diving finalist, was 4th after the second and third round. Kunznetsov over-rotated with his entry on a forward 2.5 somersault with three twists and scored 68.25. This took him away from Laugher, down into 6th place. Yuan’s reverse 3.5 somersault secured his place at the top of the table with 94.5.
Dive four, a forward 2.5 somersault with three twists, and a 3.9 degree of difficulty, scored Laugher 76.05, his best score on that dive. Yuan and Laugher just weren’t moving from their first and second positions whilst others jostled for the other positions.
Dive five, Laugher’s bogie dive, a forward 4.5 somersault, scored a huge 96.9. Going into the final round, Laugher was 15 points behind Yuan and 22 points above Hausding. He secured a medal with a score of 88.2 from his favourite dive, a back 3.5 somersault, and took the lead with 523.85. Yuan would be the last to dive. An 11 dive wait and Yuan needed 74 from his final dive to win. Yuan scored 96.9 for his forward 4.5 Somersault, for a grand total of 547.6. Hausding took the Bronze with 498.9. Ireland/Yorkshire’s Oliver Dingley finished on a back 2.5 somersault with 1.5 twists scoring 79.9 and a total of 442.90 – which got him a brilliant 6th place.
Laugher now ends his Rio 2016 games as a double Olympic medallist and claims Team GB’s 50th medal. Team GB has surpassed the 48 medal target set with further medals coming from the velodrome and gymnastics. Rio 2016 is now the best games outside of Britain. Team GB are just 15 medals behind London 2012’s huge 65 haul and are second in the medals table above China for the third day. A huge achievement considering China and the USA have dominated recent Olympics. #BringOnTheGreat
Tom Daley kicks of his 10m individual event on Friday 19 August with the preliminary round at 8pm (British time). The semi-final is scheduled for 3pm Saturday 20 August with the final later on at 8.30pm.
We’re wishing Tom the best of luck.