Nearly two thousand people flocked to the Hamdan Sports Complex over March 20-22 for the highly anticipated event and to see the world’s best in action, and were not disappointed. Along with world champion Qiu Bo, the field included crowd favourite and Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley of Great Britain, Olympic champion David Boudia, world championships bronze medallist Sascha Klein, world championships silver medallist in synchro Victor Minibaev and European champion Oleksandr Bondar.
Every diver produced a brilliant first round dive, all scoring in the eighties, with the exception of Tom Daley who threw down the gauntlet to his competition, posting 99.75 for his 626B armstand back triple somersault to take the lead. Qiu posted the first tens of the night with his second dive, earning the perfect score from four of the judges and 103.25 total to take the lead, which he hung onto with a 98.60 for his next dive. Daley’s second dive was not as strong, dropping him to fourth place, with the USA’s Boudia moving into second.
Daley moved back up to third in round three, but missed the entry on the fourth dive, scoring only 66.60 and putting him in fifth place and, short of a miracle, out of contention for a medal.
Qiu produced a breath-taking perfect dive in round four with his 207B back 3.5 somersaults pike. When the seven tens showed on the scoreboard the appreciative and vocal crowd erupted.
The joy turned to despair on Qiu’s next dive, as he over rotated on the 109c forward 4 ½ in tuck position and missed the entry, scoring him a disappointing 49.94 to drop out of the gold medal position, and hand the lead to Russia’s Minibaev.
While Qui had a horror fifth round missing the same dive that brought Daley unstuck, Boudia was climbing back up the rankings with a fifth round 102.60 to move into third place.
Qiu bounced back with his final dive earning him 83.60, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the consistent Minibaev, who took the gold with 537.05, just 6.15 points ahead of Qiu. Daley’s last two dives scored in the 90s but still weren’t enough to put him on the podium, and he finished in fourth with 520.55, just 7.75 points away from the bronze, which Boudia took with 528.30.
Ukraine’s Bondar also produced a consistent round with every dive in the 80s, but in such company he needed more and he finished in fifth with 507.20, ahead of Germany’s Klein who produced two dives in the 90s but also couldn’t match the opposition, finishing sixth with 477.30.
Boudia was pleased with the result, saying “It’s always fun diving with the world’s best, having China dive for 10s, the Russians and Tom Daley makes us all step up. The atmosphere that the UAE has is great, the pressure is always intense, men’s 10m, it’s the premier event and everyone expects the good show, I hope we delivered that today.
‘When you have six guys that on any day can battle for the gold medal, everyone wants to beat the other, it makes you spin faster and put entries on your dive. I don’t watch the score, I’m a train wreck if I do that. I look at what points I earned and focus on that. You can hear it when someone gets tens, we heard it tonight. We heard it and said “oh of course”, but it was surprising he missed the other dives, but that’s diving, it’s a lot of pressure, but it can happen on any day’ he added.
Daley was disappointed but philosophical about the result, saying, ‘I am gutted about that, I was happy I competed, there was some really good dives in there but just frustrated with the one dive. If I’d even got 6.5 I’d have got a medal, if I even got 8.5 or 9s like I normally get I would have won. It’s still good to know that I can do it though. It’s a tough field, you have to be on your A game and if you miss a dive that’s that.
‘The field really lifts you, it was a great atmosphere, so many people came to support, if it can be like that every time we come to Dubai divers are always going to want to come back’.
Earlier in the evening the women’s final had seen a clear cut leader emerge early. Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito posted the best dive of the first round, but was quickly overtaken by China’s world championships 10m synchro gold medallist Liu Huixia. Huixia went on to produce some brilliant dives, with three scoring in the 80s to stretch her lead, taking China’s sixth gold of the competition with 400.70.
‘I was very happy with my performance, I prefer the individual event (Lui also won gold in the 10m synchro in Dubai) I feel more confident’ said Lui.
The battle for the minor medals saw the positions change almost every round, Malaysia’s Olympic bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong Pamg delivering just enough to take the silver but she was pushed all the way by Canada’s Roseline Filion. Filion, who with partner Benfeito won gold at the 2012 Olympics and silver at the 2013 World Championships in 10m synchro, started slowly but improved to move into third in round four. She was only 3.55 points behind Pamg moving into the last round, but they both scored 76.80, giving Pamg the silver and Filion the bronze, in a repeat of their placings in the 10m synchro final on Thursday night.
‘I am very happy with the result but I still think I need to improve and can do better.’ said Pamg
‘I’m really happy, I knew what I needed to focus on and what I needed to do to dive well and get a good score. That was my goal, to get a medal on top is great, I didn’t do any mistakes and was consistent. I missed the silver on the quality of my entries, I need to be stronger into the water’ Filion said.
After a great start Filion’s teammate Benfeito missed the entry on her third dive, dropping her to fifth place. She recovered a little but missed the podium, finishing fourth with 335.80.
Germany’s Maria Kurjo and Great Britain’s Sarah Barrow both suffered a similar fate, Kurjo sitting in third before a low scoring third and fourth dive pushed her into fifth, finishing with 330.90, while Barrow was in second after round one but a poor third dive dropped her down to sixth, finishing with 326.70
‘The competition over the last three days has been superb, and tonight’s finals were a thrilling end to a wonderful event. We are pleased to see how many people came to see out this fantastic display and it is great to see how much they enjoyed it’ said Ahmed Al Falasi, President of UAE Swimming Federation. ‘I wish all the athletes the very best for the rest of the Diving World Series.’
After the completion of the competition the medal tally is as follows:
China - 6 gold, 4 silver
Germany – 1 gold 1 silver
Russia – 1 gold
Malaysia – 2 silver
Mexico – 1 silver
Italy – 2 bronze
Ukraine – 2 bronze
Canada – 2 bronze
USA – 1 bronze
Great Britain – 1 bronze.
The FINA/NVC Diving World series now moves to London on April 25-27, then Moscow on May 2-4, Windsor Canada on May 30- June 1, before the last leg in Monterrey, Mexico on June 6-8.