Americans Wilkinson, Hildenbrand advance


ATHENS, Greece -- Laura Wilkinson is in a familiar position
heading into the 10-meter platform final.

The defending Olympic champion was fourth after Saturday's
semifinal, needing a comeback and some mistakes by her competitors
for a chance to win another medal.

It worked that way in Sydney when she rallied from fifth place
to win gold, taking advantage when those ahead of her botched their
dives. She was the first American since 1964 to win the 10-meter

This time, Wilkinson was fourth after the four-dive semifinal.
Sara Hildebrand of St. Paul, Minn., was ninth.

"Remember Sydney?'' U.S. coach Ken Armstrong said. "There's
nothing like being underdogs.''

Chinese teammates Lao Lishi and Li Ting were 1-2 heading into
Sunday's final. The duo already won gold in the synchronized

The Chinese put themselves in medal contention with a big move
up in the standings. Lao was fourth after Friday's preliminaries,
and Li was seventh.

"Both of our athletes are only 17 years old, so we cannot be
too demanding of them,'' Chinese coach Liu Heng Lin said. "Why
would I be nervous? They will try their best in the finals.''

The Chinese had won four straight women's platform titles until
Wilkinson's stunning victory four years ago.

Preliminary scores were dropped after the semifinal; semifinal
scores are combined with final scores to determine the final
standings. Lao led 12 divers into the final with 203.04 points; Li
had 198.33.

Chantelle Newbery of Australia was third with 198.30. She
already won bronze on synchronized 3-meter springboard.

"I know what to expect, and I will do my best,'' Newbery said
before rushing off to call her young son in Australia. "He sees me
on TV and says, 'My mum is at the Olympics.' ''

Wilkinson had 194.52. Aussie Loudy Tourky was fifth. Emilie
Heymans of Canada, the current world champion, was eighth.
Hildebrand was ninth with 180.69.

Wilkinson consistently earned marks ranging from 8.0 to 9.5 for
her four dives.

"I like all my dives,'' she said. "My favorite is probably my
twister and I like to do it last.''

The toughest part, Armstrong said, was getting through the
preliminaries and semifinals.

"Now she's made the finals and she can relax,'' said Armstrong,
who is also Wilkinson's personal coach in Texas. "That was a great

Hildebrand struggled on her second dive, a reverse pike that
earned marks ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 from the judges.

"I knew I missed it, but my favorite dive is after that, so it
gave me a reason to come back,'' she said. "I don't want to miss
my favorite dive.''

Hildebrand greatly improved on her last two dives, entering the
water with just a small splash on her back 1½ somersault with a
half-twist and inward 1½-somersault pike. Her marks ranged from 8.0
to 9.5.

"I really just tried to show that I was still confident after
missing that second dive,'' she said.

Hildebrand missed by one spot making the platform final in