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World champion Despatie of Canada was fourth

8/28/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Hu Jia overtook teammate Tian Liang on his
next-to-last dive to win the 10-meter platform title Saturday
night, giving China a record sixth Olympic diving gold medal.

Hu totaled 748.08 points to upset defending champion Tian in the
final diving event of the Athens Games. Mathew Helm of Australia
edged Tian for silver by 0.90 points, finishing with 730.56 to
Tian's 729.66. World champion Alexandre Despatie of Canada was
fourth with 707.46.

Hu got out of water and threw his arms in the air, realizing he
had clinched the gold. He had earned platform silver behind Tian at
the Sydney Games.

Tian battled his teammate in the fifth round, earning three 10s
for an inward tuck with 3½ somersaults. But Hu was even better. He
surged past Tian into first by earning four perfect 10.0s for a
reverse tuck with 3½ somersaults.

Hu was even stronger on his last dive, a backward pike with 2½
somersaults and 1½ twists that scored five 10s.

Helm was third for much of the competition and needed to hit his
last dive to break up the Chinese juggernaut. The Aussie came up
big, earning four 10s for a backward pike with 2½ somersaults and
1½ twists. He held up up two fingers in disbelief, then buried his
face in his hands.

Despatie dropped into fourth place after his fourth dive and
stayed there. The shaggy-haired 19-year-old overrotated on a
backward pike with 3½ somersaults -- his second-most difficult dive
of the competition.

Hu's win means China won all but two of the eight diving events
in Athens. One of the golds belongs to Tian, who took the
synchronized platform title with partner Yang Jinghui.

Helms teamed with Robert Newbery to win the bronze in that
event. Four years ago, he was eighth on the tower.

Despatie already earned silver in the 3-meter springboard.

The judges were generous in awarding 10.0s Saturday night, with
all the top four divers getting multiple perfect marks -- just as
they did in the semifinals.

The Chinese became a diving powerhouse after winning their first
gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. They have now captured 19
of a possible 28 golds over the last five Olympics -- and taken the
silver in seven of the nine events they didn't win.

"Obviously, they train very, very hard. Their system is working
very good for them," Despatie said. "They have so many athletes,
too. If someone isn't good, they just choose another one."

The pool of talented divers doesn't show any signs of letting up
in the world's most populous country, especially as China looks
ahead to the Beijing Games in 2008.

"We might get someone good who comes along every 10 years,"
Despatie said. "They get people with a lot of talent, and they get
that every year."

Despatie is likely to face the Chinese again in 2008. Hu seems a
solid bet to return, but Tian, who turned 25 on Friday, may not.

"When I first got into the sport, the Chinese were like gods,"
Despatie said. "No one could touch them. They were awesome."

They still are.