Qin and Cao make it six wins for China in seven diving events in Kazan

Kazan 2015 - DV

Double Olympic champion Qin Kai clinched a unique fifth successive men's 3m synchro springboard gold, sharing victory with Cao Yuan to give China their sixth title of the FINA World Championships after one had escaped their grasp a few hours earlier.

Qin and Cao denied the home Russian crowd the win they had hoped for after Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Zakharov upstaged the Chinese pair in the morning’s preliminary round and seized the lead in the opening round of the six-dive final. But in the end China held sway in a fluctuating final, taking the lead in the second round, conceding it to the Russians in the third but then taking control in the fourth to win eventually by just over 12 points.

Zakharov had toppled the Chinese to win the Olympic 3m individual crown in 2012 and China’s air of supremacy in Kazan had been blown away not long earlier in the Aquatics Palace when Italy’s Tania Cagnotto relegated China to silver and bronze in the women’s 1m springboard final.

But the Russian pair were consigned to 3m synchro silver behind 29-year-old Qin for the third World Championships in succession, their duel decided in the final round in a battle on the toughest dive on show, the forward 4-1/2 somersaults (109C) with a 3.8 degree of difficulty on the 3m board. Qin and Cao won with 471.45 points, with Kuznetsov and Zakharov second on 459.18 and Great Britain’s Jack Laugher and Chris Mears collecting bronze on 445.20, proving the most consistent of the challengers in a final in which no pair was error-free.

Qin Kai and Cao Yuan in action - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Kuznetsov and Zakharov had gained the psychological advantage in the qualifying round, soundly outscoring the Chinese on the 109C to vault to the front for the final. But it was a different story in the final when Qin and Cao, already around nine points ahead, nailed their 109C, earning a score of 96.90 which left the Russians with a monumental task with the last dive of encounter. The Russians could not match the Chinese, falling around 3-1/2 points short on the dive and 12.27 overall.

Cao, Qin’s fourth different springboard partner in his five world championship triumphs, was previously a 10m specialist, winning Olympic gold in the 10m synchro in 2012 before suffering defeat on the tower at the 2013 Worlds, where he and Zhang Yanquan were relegated to bronze. Qin, twice Olympic champion in the 3m synchro, now has six world golds, having been individual 3m world champion in 2007, the year of the first of his five 3m synchro titles.

For Kuznetsov and Zakharov, it was silver again in Qin’s wake as it had been at the 2011 and 2013 Worlds and 2012 Olympics. They had been seeking to emulate fellow Russians Alexander Dobroskok and Dmitry Sautin, the only non-Chinese duo to win the event at the Worlds when they prevailed in 2003, but they could not prevent the Chinese from making it eight wins in nine editions.

The Russian heroes of the day - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Japan’s Ken Terauchi, world 3m bronze medallist back in 2001, showed he could still dive with the best 10 days short of his 35th birthday. Terauchi and Sho Sakai made the final, finishing 11th.


Cao Yuan (CHN, gold):
“I am very happy and excited. It is my first world title in springboard. I want to thank to all those who support me, especially Qin Kai. He is an experienced veteran and helps me to relax in the final. I was very nervous in the preliminary and was not in a good shape. Fortunately, I learned from that and improved in the final. It is a hard battle. The Russian pair is very strong, as well as the British and Mexican divers. We had to do our best and avoid any small mistakes”.

Qin Kai (CHN, gold):
“I have competed in many big events, but today's final is the most difficult one because our rivals are very strong. The Russian pair is experienced and has the home advantage. We just concentrated on each dive. I changed partners every time and I am pleased to help the youngsters to be better. It is the first big event Cao and I competed. I realise that we still have a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully we can earn the tickets to Rio Olympic Games from our National Trials”.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (RUS, silver): “We have to admit that it wasn’t quite well what we were hoping. We were expecting the gold medal, definitively. We had some mistakes in a couple of dives, but we hope we will get better results in Rio. We have time, we still have 12 months ahead”.

Jack Laugher (GBR, bronze): “We are very happy with our performance today. This is probably the crowning achievement of my career so far and to have my best mate standing next to me as well is what makes it even sweeter. It's a personal best score, which is amazing, and to get that Rio spot as well is a huge weight off our shoulders, so we can sit back and enjoy”.

Chris Mears (GBR, bronze): (injured in the back in the beginning of the year) “It’s still hurting a bit now and it's temperamental, so my preparation coming into this event isn't what I wanted it to be, but it just proves that if you're in the right mind-set you can achieve anything”.