Sautin in quest for another medal

Updated: August 24, 2004, 8:36 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Troy Dumais kept alive his hopes of winning the United States' first diving medal of the Athens Games, qualifying for the 3-meter springboard final Tuesday.

Russia's Dmitri Sautin, competing in his fourth Olympics, had the highest score of the semifinals with 256.38 points. Scores from the preliminaries were dropped, which bumped overall leader Alexandre Despatie of Canada to third heading into the evening final.

While scores from the preliminaries and semifinals are added to determine the 12 finalists, only the semifinal scores are used in the final.

China's Peng Bo was second in the semis with 256.17, followed by Despatie with 254.73. Dumais has some ground to make up, starting the final in sixth with 239.91.

But his coach, Ken Armstrong, was confident the 24-year-old native of Ventura, Calif., can close the gap.

"He's in perfect position for this evening,'' Armstrong said. "He knows he's diving well. Everybody is so equal right now. No one can tell who's going to win.''

Dumais planned to make a change in the program he used for the preliminaries, adding a tougher dive that gives him a chance to score higher but increases the risk of failure.

"We're not leaving anything out,'' Armstrong said. "We're going for it.''

So was the 30-year-old Sautin, who already has an extensive medal collection. He won bronze on the springboard at the 1992 Barcelona Games, captured a platform gold at Atlanta in 1996, then took a gold, a silver and two bronzes at Sydney in 2000.

The United States has yet to win a medal at the diving pool, missing perhaps its best hope when 2000 gold medalist Laura Wilkinson finished fifth in 10-meter platform. After the men's springboard, there are only two diving events left -- both long shots for a U.S. medal.

The Americans are trying to avoid their worst performance since the 1912 Stockholm Games, the only time the U.S. team failed to win at least one diving medal.

Sautin was solid throughout the semifinals, comprised of five compulsory dives that limit the degree of difficulty. He received scores of 9.0 and 9.5 on nearly all his attempts.

Dumais wasn't quite as sharp.

"I feel confident,'' he said. "It wasn't the scores I could possibly receive, but I wasn't finishing and going into the water as clean as I could have.''

Sautin figures to get a strong challenge from Peng, seeking his country's first individual diving medal of the Games. Wang Feng also qualified for the final in fifth place with 240.42.

The powerful Chinese won three of four synchronized events, but the field is more crowded in the springboard competition. The field also includes defending world champion Alexander Dobroskok of Russia, who is 10th with 228.09.

"We knew it was going to be a tough competition,'' Dumais said. "You have no control over anybody but yourself. I'm just searching and hoping for six solid dives. We'll let the contest roll over from there.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press