Tian: 'Absolutely confident' he'll win

Updated: August 28, 2004, 7:58 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Alexandre Despatie of Canada, the current world champion, and defending Olympic champion Tian Liang of China advanced Saturday to the 10-meter platform final, the last diving event of the Athens Games.

Despatie, silver medalist in the 3-meter springboard, took the highest score into the evening final with 209.46 points. Tian was third at 209.04, just behind Australian Mathew Helm (209.34).

"I am absolutely confident that I am going to win tonight,'' Tian said.

Hu Jia was fourth at 207.30, putting China in position to win its record sixth diving gold medal in Athens.

"The top four are quite advanced compared to the rest of the field,'' said Despatie, who finished fourth on platform at the Sydney Games as a 15-year-old. "We always seem to have the same guys in the finals every time.''

Hu earned platform silver behind Tian four years ago. Tian already won a gold medal in Athens on synchronized platform with partner Yang Jinghui.

Helm teamed with Robert Newbery to win the bronze on synchronized platform in Athens. Newbery was in sixth place among 12 qualifiers.

"I did not really expect to do so well,'' said Helm, who was eighth on platform in Sydney. "I'm just really focused on myself and my own dives. That's all I can control, and it's been working out really well for me so far.''

The judges handed out a bevy of 10.0s. Each of the top four divers got at least one perfect mark during the semifinals.

"Tens are always good,'' Despatie said, "but it's just the semifinals. It doesn't mean much.''

None of them scored lower than 8.5.

"If you want to be in the game with these guys, your scores in the semifinals have got to be 9, 9.5, 10,'' Despatie said. "Otherwise you're out.''

Americans Caesar Garcia and Kyle Prandi failed to get out of the preliminaries, ensuring the United States' first diving medals shutout in 92 years.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press