China’s Chen Ruolin could finish the Rio Olympics with an unmatched diving record, and she could continue on to Tokyo 2020, but her platform prowess is in doubt after this past season.
Chen has entered four career Olympic events and won all of them. She took gold in the platform and synchronized platform at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, debuting at the Olympics as a 15-year-old.
Chen, now 22, lit the cauldron at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, in August 2014, but she suffered a setback this year.
Chen underperformed at the Chinese diving trials and did not make the World Championships team in the individual platform, where she had taken gold or silver at the previous four Worlds dating to 2007.
At Worlds, North Korean Kim Kuk-hyang came away with the platform title, followed by Chen’s countrywoman Ren Qian, who is 14, and Malaysia’s Pandelela Rinong for an unusual all-Asian podium. North Korea owns zero Olympic diving medals.
Chen still competed, taking her fourth straight World title in the synchro platform.
If Chen can make her third Olympic team next year, she will go to Rio looking to break the record for most career Olympic diving gold medals.
She shares it with retired Americans Greg Louganis and Pat McCormick and retired Chinese Guo Jingjing and Fu Mingxia and an active teammate, Wu Minxia. Of those divers, only McCormick joined Chen in going undefeated at the Olympics, sweeping the individual platform and springboard in 1952 and 1956.
Wu, a three-time Olympian on the springboard and seven years older than Chen, also competed only in synchro at Worlds in July, earning gold.
Chen said at Worlds in Kazan, Russia, that she has no interest in the springboard, which platform divers have been known to switch to late in their careers.
Chen, who was raised by grandparents, started diving at age 4 and has shied away from talk of being China’s next great diver, also wouldn’t say if Rio would be her last Olympic run.
As for the best divers of all time, Chen named Guo and Wu as role models.
Chen said a fifth Olympic gold medal would be a highlight — but not necessarily the end — of one of the greatest diving careers, perhaps the greatest ever.
NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report.
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