Yang Jian

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China authors most dominant diving world championships in history

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Yang Jian put an exclamation point on China’s most dominant world diving championships ever, winning the men’s platform with the highest finals score in recent history to end the meet.

Yang tallied 10s in each of the last two rounds to hold off countryman Yang Hao (who had all 10s in round four) with 598.65 points. Yang Hao tallied 585.75 for silver, 44.7 points ahead of Russian bronze medalist Aleksandr Bondar.

Ukrainian 13-year-old Oleksii Sereda took fourth.

British star Tom Daley, the defending world champion who had the previous recent highest score of 590.95 points, dropped out of the medals in the fifth round with the lowest score (46.25) of the 72 dives from 12 entrants. He ended up seventh.

Americans Brandon Loschiavo and David Dinsmore placed eighth and 12th, respectively.

China won all 12 events that it entered at diving worlds, skipping a mixed-gender springboard Saturday that’s not on the Olympic program.

China, which has dominated the sport for two decades, won every event that it entered at an Olympics or worlds for the second time after going 10 for 10 in 2011.

This year’s feat is more impressive because mixed-gender events were added to the world program (but not the Olympic program) since 2011. And this year, China not only won every gold but also every silver in the four individual Olympic program events.

Yang Jian is an interesting story in particular. In 2014, he broke the record for highest-scoring dive with a 123-point, front four-and-a-half, leading 2012 Olympic champion David Boudia to dub him the 2016 Olympic favorite.

But Yang struggled with injury in 2015, dropped to 10th at those worlds and wasn’t on China’s team for Rio. He came back for bronze at 2017 Worlds and silver at the 2018 World Cup before an ankle injury last winter.

“It is hard to win the gold medal after such a long term of difficulty in my life,” he said.

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MORE: No medal, but mission accomplished for David Boudia

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.

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David Boudia earns another World Diving Championships silver

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U.S. Olympic diving champion David Boudia took silver behind China’s Qiu Bo for a third straight World Championships in Kazan, Russia, on Sunday.

“This competition was exactly what I was looking for,” Boudia said, according to USA Diving.

Boudia, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic diving gold medalist since 2000 by upsetting Qiu, was no match for his rival in Kazan. Qiu won by 26.80 points.

“This victory means a lot to me,” Qiu 22, said, according to Reuters. “I made almost no mistakes, but I will try to improve. I hope that I will perform better at the Olympics.”

Boudia comfortable won silver, by 22.25 points over Tom Daley, the British diver who took London 2012 bronze.

Stunningly, Chinese star Yang Jian was 10th, 135.80 points off Qiu’s pace.

The U.S. finished the World Diving Championships with two medals from Boudia and from Michael Hixon in the 1m springboard, which is not an Olympic event.

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