Kim Kuk-hyang upstages Chinese 10m favourites for DPR Korea’s first-ever world title

Kazan 2015 - DV

Tiny Kim Kuk-hyang propelled the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to their first-ever gold medal at the FINA World Championships, showing the strongest nerve to trump her Chinese rivals and win the women’s 10m diving crown. Sixteen-year-old Kim trailed defending champion Si Yajie and heir-apparent Ren Qian going into the last round of the five-dive final but threw down an enormous challenge with her concluding back 2-1/2 somersaults with 1-1/2 twists which netted two perfect 10s and a score of 91.20 points. Si, leading into the last round but now with no room for error, tackled the same combination next but faltered and managed only 72.00 points, leaving the destiny of title in the hands of 14-year-old Ren, who had utterly dominated the preliminary and semi-final rounds the previous day. But this time the task proved too much for Ren, who scored 76.80 on that same fateful back dive, leaving her 9.05 points adrift overall. That meant Kim was world champion with an aggregate 397.05 points, relegating Ren to silver on 388.00 and letting in Olympic bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong Pamg of Malaysia for the bronze on 385.05. Si dropped out of the medals to fourth place, less than a point behind Pamg on 384.40.

Kim was overcome with emotion as they played her country’s anthem and raised her nation’s flag in the medal presentation on the podium. She saluted tearfully and sang the words of the anthem, then turned to smile happily and wave to the applauding crowd. It was DPR Korea’s second diving medal of Kazan after Song Nam-hyang, who finished 10th in this final, and Kim Un-hyang gained a bronze in the women’s 10m synchro, the country’s first-ever world championship medals in any of the aquatic disciplines.

Kim Kuk-hyang (PRK) diving for the gold - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

In an error-strewn final in which the lead changed hands in every round, Kim had gathered two 10s in earlier dives before her final thunderbolt which clinched the crown. Ren had two 10s in the penultimate round which thrust her into title contention after an unconvincing start, while Si led after rounds two and four.

China, who won the first five diving titles in Kazan, have added only one of subsequent four, Tania Cagnotto of Italy (women’s 1m), Tom Daley and Rebecca Gallantree of Great Britain (mixed team) and now Kim (women’s 10m) shattering their previous air of invincibility.

Si had started China on the winning track when she and Tai Xiaohu won the opening mixed 10m synchro title. Si has grown a lot since she dethroned Chen on the 10m board at 14 at the 2013 Barcelona Worlds and was lucky to get the chance to defend the 10m title, gaining her place in the final national trials after Liu Huixia injured her right shoulder a month before Kazan. Liu recovered sufficiently to compete in Kazan, retaining the women’s 10m synchro title with Chen. Paola Espinosa, Mexico’s world 10m champion in 2009, failed to make the final, having been eliminated in the semi-final round in which she finished 17th of 18 divers.

Ren (CHN, silver), Kim (PRK, gold) and Pandelela (MAS, bronze) - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia


Kim Kuk-hyang (PRK, gold): “I would like to say thank you to all of your for your support, I have appreciated each and every moment of this final. I have also to express my gratitude to my nation for the great support I receive. I started in sport at the age of 12 and I train five hours a day (three hours in the morning and two hour in afternoon). I perform about 40 dives during the training. My model in the sport is the Chinese diver Chen Ruolin and if I have the opportunity to compete against her I will try to do my best. This is my first international event and my objective in Kazan was to get the Olympic qualification”.

“I’m a high school student and I’m reading, having lessons and training every day. When I come back to my country, all the people will come to the streets to welcome me”.

Ren Qian (CHN, silver): “It was my first World Championships and I was very tense, especially when Kim earned high scores that made me more nervous. It was a pity that I could not perform my best today. I guess I can be stronger minded and more relaxed next time I compete in the Worlds”.

Pandelela Rinong Pamg (MAS, bronze): “I want to say thank you to my family for the support they gave to me all the life. Today I feel very happy and also grateful for this result and overall I’m quite satisfied with my performance, except with the second dive. I feel I can do it better”.

“Presently, Malaysia is supporting very much diving and the sport is of high-level, especially after my success in the Olympic Games in London. After 2012, I can see that diving is improving, with a lot of Malaysian youngsters reaching the podium in international events”.

(On Rio 2012 Games): “To win an Olympic gold is the dream of every athlete, so I will continue training hard to reach that goal”.