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Aussie Spoils China's Dream of Gold Sweep
    2008-08-23 22:37:23     Xinhua

Aussie Matthew Mitcham overtook Chinese top favorite Zhou Luxin with a near-perfect last dive to claim the platform title at Beijing Olympics, spoiling China's dream of a clean sweep of all Olympic diving golds for the first time in over 50 years.

Mitcham, as world No. 3 in the event, came from behind in his attempt to top the 12-man final, compiling a total score of 537.95 to bag the gold, about 4 points ahead of silver winner Zhou.

World champion Gleb Galperin of Russia edged out another Chinese favorite Huo Liang to bag a bronze medal at 525.80.

In the magic competition Saturday evening, Zhou, winner of the 2006 World Cup and second in the 2007 world championships, seized the lead from his very first dive, a forward three-and-a-half somersault in pike position, for which he amassed the highest 84.00 points.

Cheered on by an ecstatic capacity of crowd, the Chinese favorite seemed untouchable until he nailed an unsatisfactory last dive.

Mitcham trailed Zhou all the way, but still over 30 points behind before the last attempt. The climax came when the Aussie back horse staged a near flawless last dive, a back two-and-a-half somersault and two-and-a-half twists, with a 3.8 degree of difficulty.

He amassed four perfect 10s and compiled as high as 537.95 points to drive out Zhou, who settled with silver at 533.15.

"It's going to take a while to sink in. My cheeks hurt from smiling, my face hurts from the chlorine, my legs are sore from jumping up and down," said the exited Aussie.

The unbelievable victory left Mitcham squatting on the ground and bursting into tears. He gave big hugs to his coach and teammates, with incredible and surprising expressions on their faces.

When asked what went through his mind on the podium before the last and decisive dive, the 21-year-old said, "I couldn't hear the crowd. In my mind I was saying, just enjoy it. There is nothing I can do to make the dive better or worse."

"I didn't feel any pressure, and nobody gives me pressure. I collected lots of experience from the springboard event, and so I just wanted to enjoy the games," said Mitcham, who failed to meet the 3m springboard final with 16th place in semifinals on Aug. 19.

"In my wildest dreams I got the gold medal. I thought maybe I could have gotten the bronze or silver medal," said the Sydney Olympic champion.

Zhou, winner of the 2006 World Cup and second in the 2007 world championships, was left lamenting the gold almost in hand. "I started well, but the last dive was not as good as I could have done because I started to get nervous," said the 21-year-old.

China has swept all of the gold medals in the previous seven events, leaving the pressure on Zhou and Huo, who went all the way to finish last gold for the diving powerhouse.

"I didn't look at the scores before my last dive. I was too anxious to perform a good dive, but made some technical mistakes," said Zhou.

"It is disappointing. I had been trained for so long and exerted arduous efforts for the Games, but I lost the chance in the last attempt," said the defending world champion.

"I'm still young, and I will sum lots of experience from the competition. The Beijing Olympics will offer great help for my life," he added.

To collect seven golds out of eight is already the best-ever achievements the Chinese "dream team" has made in the Olympic history.

 
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