IMAGE ©Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia
Derek Parr, FINA Media Committee Member from Great Britain
World champion Shi Tingmao claimed her second diving gold medal of the Rio Games but it was silver medallist He Zi who stole the show when she received a marriage proposal from team-mate Qin Kai on the pool deck after the victory ceremony on Sunday.
Shi led China to their eighth successive Olympic triumph in the women’s 3m springboard, inheriting the crown won at the London 2012 Games by Wu Minxia, her gold-medal partner in the synchronised 3m event which had opened proceedings at the Maria Lenk pool a week earlier.
Shi prevailed in the duel for individual gold with He Zi, her predecessor as world champion in 2013. But He found she had upstaged the winner when former Olympic champion Qin Kai went down on bended knee in front of her on the pool deck and proffered an engagement ring in a long proposal after the victory ceremony.
IMAGE Shi Tingmao (CHN), gold, ©Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia
A tearful He Zi nodded in assent and the crowd cheered, so Qin, who lost his Olympic 3m synchro crown when he and Cao Yuan were consigned to bronze last Wednesday, became a winner again by gaining a fiancée.
Qin, a multiple world champion, was the men’s individual 3m Olympic silver medallist in 2012 following bronze in 2008 and won 3m synchro gold in both 2008 and 2012 before Britons Jack Laugher and Chris Mears ended the Chinese reign in Rio.
Before the emotional drama on the pool deck, He Zi, Qin’s new fiancée, an Olympic gold medallist in the 3m synchro with Wu Minxia and silver medallist in the individual 3m at the 2012 London Games, had topped the leader-board with Shi with identical scores in the first two rounds of the final. Shi, however, pulled clear in the third series and stretched ahead in the last two rounds of the five-dive competition to win by over 18 points as He, who had just executed her last dive, generously applauded her team-mate’s accomplished final effort, knowing it meant gold before the scores had even appeared on the board.
IMAGE ©Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia
European champion Tania Cagnotto of Italy, who won her first Olympic medal in five appearances at the Games with a silver with Francesca Dallapè in the previous Sunday’s 3m synchro, joyfully spun to her second with the bronze in a see-saw battle with Canada’s Jennifer Abel. Abel overtook her 31-year-old rival with a fine effort in the penultimate round but Cagnotto did not buckle and responded with an excellent reverse 2-1/2 somersaults in the final round. Abel could not match it and was left in thankless fourth place as she had been in the 3m synchro, in which she had bagged bronze at London 2012.
Shi, contesting her first Olympics, had shown similar dominance in the 3m semi-final the previous day. Shi amassed 406.05 points from her five dives for the gold in the final, with He notching 387.90 and taking the silver, as she had behind Shi at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan. Cagnotto, rapturously embraced after her splendid final dive by father and coach Giorgio, himself a former Olympic medallist, took the bronze on 372.80 to make it a triumphant double-medal farewell in her last Olympic appearance. Abel, who had led the 18 qualifiers from the preliminary round, was fourth on 367.25, ahead of Australians Maddison Keeney (349.65) and Esther Qin (344.10).
Shi Tingmao (CHN), gold:
On the proposal from Qin Kai to Shi Tingmao: “They have passed through a lot of things over the last years, and this is the perfect moment to do this proposal. I am very happy for both of them.”
He Zi (CHN), silver:
On the proposal: “We are dating now for over 6 years and I didn’t know he would do this proposal. In the podium, he did a lot of promises, but the only thing I know is that this is the guy I trust to be with for the rest of my life.”
Tania Cagnotto (ITA), bronze:
On the podium proposal: “I’ve seen what happened, but Shi Tingmao knew about the surprise before the medal ceremony and told me, so I was informed. Anyway, it was a very nice moment.”
“I was so happy after my synchro medal that I just wanted to do my best in this final. I wasn’t so nervous in the final, I was quite cool, as this my last competition. I am really happy to finish my career like that. I admire a lot these two divers and it’s a pleasure to share this podium with them.”
On the green water: “I didn’t pay too much attention to this. I was a bit worried concerning the sanitary conditions, but all of us are OK. I hope they can fix it soon.”
FONTE Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)
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