TOKYO (AFP) – China’s “Dream Team” diving squad launched their bid for a golden sweep at the Tokyo Olympics with an ominous victory on Sunday (July 25) – with a little help from a superstitious grandfather.
Shi Tingmao and Wang Han claimed a dominant win in the women’s synchronised 3m springboard, with Canada taking silver and Germany bronze.
Afterwards, Shi – who now has three Olympic gold medals in her career – talked about how her grandfather changed her name when she was a child because he believed that it would bring her greater sporting success.
She used to be called Shi Tingting – the latter is a common name in China – but it can also sound like “stop”.
“This happened when I was very young,” the 29-year-old said, appearing to laugh behind her red mask.
“Because I used to be a gymnast from the age of four, then at eight I started diving. But Shi Tingting was actually not a great name for an athlete.
“So my grandfather spent days looking through dictionaries for names trying to find a name that would be good for an athlete and what name would help me as an athlete.
“And actually I think it did help me a great deal, so I’m grateful for it.”
Shi, who also won synchronised 3m springboard gold at Rio 2016, and Wang had been hot favourites on day one of diving at the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Games.
And the pair did not fluff their lines, leading from the first round on the way to taking the title with 326.40 points.
Canada’s Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu won silver (300.78 points), with Germany’s Lena Hentschel and Tina Punzel earning bronze (284.97 points).
It continues a strong start to the Games for China, who enjoyed golden success on Saturday in shooting, fencing and weightlifting.
China underlined their supremacy in diving by winning seven of eight golds in Rio – Britain surprisingly nabbed the other.
But there are high hopes back home that the Chinese can go one better in the Japanese capital.
Tears in their eyes, Shi and Wang embraced warmly at the end, then held hands on the podium at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, where spectators are barred as part of virus-prevention measures.
Wang, 30, for whom this was a first Olympic medal, warned that China were only just getting started and said hard training was behind the team’s success.
“We make all of the effort we can in our training every day,” she said. “We have already worked for five years, and we are fully ready for this.”
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