When it comes to dominating a sport, there's nearly no comparison to China's mastery of diving. Of the nine diving medals China has win, six have been gold. Chen Ruolin won the women's 10-meter platform Thursday night, making London the eighth Olympics in a row that China has earned at least one medal in the event. After five dives, Chen's margin of victory was 55.80 points -- almost the value of a whole extra dive. Why is China so good? We explain in GIFs.
In a slightly smug article titled "So good at diving, 'it's annoying,'" China Daily asked the other competitors why China is so awesome. Australian Anabelle Smith, who competes in the synchronized 3-meter springboard, said, "I feel like they do 10 hours (of training) a day and we do six. They have a different lifestyle than us." The most obvious result of all their training is the divers' precision in the air.
Compare Chen's dive -- two flips and one and a half twists from a handstand:
...to Australia's Brittany Broben doing the same dive:
Chen has her legs straight and together the entire time, Though Broben has a really nice entry into the water -- hardly any splash, perfectly vertical -- her legs come apart and bend in the air. Chen got 86.40 points on that dive, Broben got 83.20. Here's another angle showing Chen's precision:
Her perfect air sense is like the Chinese gymnasts'. Here's Deng Linlin on beam:
See how on the second flip, Deng pikes her body, and then sort of pop out straight as she dives toward the beam? It's very exact, just as Chen is when she finishes twisting and bends her body into a pike position to finish her final flip before entering the water.
Chen maintained that perfection throughout the entire competition -- she easily won prelims and semi-finals, too. Here's her inward three-and-a-half. An inward is when you stand backwards but flip forwards, toward the board.
Again Chen has this very precise way of straightening her legs into a pike position as she prepares to enter the water. She does that earlier than Broben does on the same dive:
Broben got an 83.20. Chen got 84.80.
Here's Chen's teammate Hu Yadan. Yadan messed up her first couple dives, which is why she didn't medal. But you can see the same perfection in the air that Chen has:
Chen didn't do the hardest dive. That was Mexico's Paola Espinosa Sanchez, who did a reverse three-and-a-half. (A reverse is when you face forward but flip backward, spinning blindly toward the board. It's mad scary and why I didn't have much of a diving career.) She was the only woman to compete that dive.
But she didn't do it very well. See how she arches her back as she goes into the water? It makes her look very overrotated, and she gets a big splash. The judges gave her mostly 6s, for a score of 61.05.
(For an example of how scary inwards and reverses can be, here's Russia's Yulia Koltunova, who got too close to the board on her inward three-and-a-half).
Malaysia's Pandelela Rinong Pamg won the bronze medal, making her the first Malaysian woman to win an Olympic medal and the first Malaysian athlete to medal outside of handball. This dive -- an inward three-and-a-half -- got an 81.60, and moved her from 10th place to 5th on the fourth dive.
By the time it was her turn for her last dive, Chen only needed about 50 points to win gold, meaning she could have done a terrible dive and still won. But she didn't. When she got out of the water, Chen didn't even bother to look at the scoreboard. Broden was elated to win silver.