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

Leave a comment

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

 

Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
Screengrab
Leave a comment

Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

Leave a comment

Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!