LONDON - Russia’s Ilya Zakharov ended China’s hopes of a clean sweep of all eight diving gold medals with a thrilling victory in the men’s 3m springboard final at the Olympics on Tuesday.
Zakharov pumped his fist in the air when he scored a competition high 104.50 points on his last dive to claim the gold medal from Chinese pair Qin Kai and defending champion He Chong.
The 21-year-old from Leningrad kept his nerve to deny Qin the gold with a superlative closing forward four and a half somersault that brought a huge roar in the Aquatics Centre and left Qin in tears.
Zakharov totalled 555.90 from his six dives to take the gold ahead of Qin (541.75) and He (524.15).
Chinese divers had won all five events leading up to the men’s springboard final and were looking to go one better than their seven out of eight at the Beijing Games four years ago.
But they were denied the perfecta again, this time by Zakharov’s series of brilliant dives off the springboard.
Qin only led Zahharov by 1.25 points into the last dive, and his 89.10 for a reverse two and a half somersault with one and a half twists proved not enough against the resilient Russian.
Zakharov, who took silver in the 3m synchronised springboard with Evgeny Kuznetsov behind China on Wednesday, separated the two Chinese divers as second to He among the top qualifiers after the morning semi-finals.
And he continued his blazing form in the final, handling the pressure of the closing round to give Russia the gold.