Men’s platform diving sets up for more drama in Rio

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Diving’s showcase event looks to have quite a storyline going into the Rio Olympics.

The men’s platform is traditionally the final diving competition at the Games and will be again in Brazil next year, on the day before the Closing Ceremony.

It’s earned that place as the sport’s climax. China of course dominates diving, but non-Chinese won the last two Olympic men’s platform gold medals by thin margins (fewer than five points in Beijing and London after more than 500 points of scores over six dives).

And then there’s this — the favorite for gold at the Rio Olympics may be the man who finished 10th at the recently completed World Championships.

That’s China’s Yang Jian, who has been called the world’s best platform diver by the reigning Olympic champion — American David Boudia.

Yang, 21, was hampered by a knee injury at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, where he averaged 7.0 scores on his six dives in the final. Yang finished a whopping 135.80 points behind the winner.

Boudia, who took silver at the World Championships behind Chinese Olympic silver medalist Qiu Bo, has seen Yang at his best. Yang recorded the highest score ever — 123 points on a forward 4 1/2 somersault (straight 10s) — at a meet in London last year.

“That’s one of those dives where you kind of just throw your hands up, shake your head and clap,” said Boudia, who finished fourth at that competition. “It was phenomenal. Divers recognize good dives.”

Yang repeated the score at a meet in March and considered both 123-pointers to be perfect dives.

“It’s a high level of difficulty,” Yang said through a translator, “but for me it’s easy.”

He appeared the favorite to keep countryman Qiu from winning a third straight World title in Kazan. It was not to be.

So Yang now must prove himself entering the Olympic year, not only to make the Chinese Olympic team (two divers per event maximum) but also to show that the 10th-place finish at Worlds (the worst by China across all events) was an aberration.

Yang started diving in September 2003 in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province and was inspired to take it up as a career after reading the autobiography of Gao Min, the 1988 and 1992 Olympic women’s springboard champion.

Yang considers Gao “a genius diver” and the greatest of all time. As for the best men’s platform diver right now?

“It’s hard to say who is the best because the level is similar,” Yang said before he finished 10th in Kazan.

It may be even harder to say now.

NBC Olympic researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Kazan.

How U.S. Olympic women’s swim team would look based on 2015 times

 

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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