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Diving preview: China a threat to sweep gold medals in Rio Olympics

It‘s the Chinese against the world in the diving events at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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After winning 15 medals at the 2015 world championships—10 of them gold—China comes to Rio with the swagger of the country to beat. They won six gold medals at the 2012 London Games and seven in Beijing, so a golden sweep of the eight Olympic diving events (men’s and women’s individual three-meter springboard and 10-meter platform, synchronized three-meter springboard and 10-meter platform) in Rio isn’t out of the question for the Chinese.

In 2012, Team USA’s David Boudia pulled off a back two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists pike dive on his final dive, earning 102.60 points to edge out China’s Qiu Bo by 1.80 points and win the Olympic gold medal in the 10-meter springboard. Boudia ended a 12-year gap without any U.S. diving gold medal, and his was the first by an American man since Mark Lenzi won the three-meter springboard at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Four years later, both divers return with their eye on the prize. Boudia is looking to become the first American man since Greg Louganis to win back-to-back Olympic gold, while Qiu, who’s won the world title in the 10-meter platform at the last three world championships, wants to finally add Olympic gold to his resume.

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Athletes to watch

Qiu Bo, China

Qui is one of the best divers in the world, boasting three world titles in 10-meter platform (2011, ’13 and ’15) on his resume—only Louganis has won three world golds. The glaring blemish was losing the 2012 Olympic gold to Boudia. Qiu was favored for the win at the 2012 Olympics before Boudia's surprising 568.65 point total earned him the gold medal in London. At the last three diving world championships, Bo has taken gold while Boudia settled for silver.

Qiu kicked off 2016 with a win at the FINA Diving World Cup in Rio and has won two silver medals and one bronze in the FINA Diving World Series. He has been beaten by compatriot Chen Aisen at each stop.

David Boudia, USA

Boudia heads to his third Olympics looking to defend his 10-meter springboard gold medal that snapped a Chinese winning streak over four previous Summer Games. But since then, the former Purdue star hasn’t claimed a top podium spot in any international competitions. He left the 2014 diving world series event in Dubai with a bronze medal and earned individual silver medals on platform at the 2013 and ’15 world championships.

Boudia, the most experienced member of the U.S. team, could also make history as the first U.S. man to win a second medal in the platform synchro event after he took bronze with Nick McCrory in London. He will dive with Steele Johnson​ just one year after finishing fifth at the world championships.

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Tom Daley, Great Britain

With David Beckham watching in the crowd, Great Britain’s Daley posted a 90.75 on his last dive (including a 10 score from one judge) to take bronze before his home crowd at the London Olympics. Daley absorbed his fame after London but a series of injuries hindered his competition schedule and training. He finished sixth in the 10-meter springboard competition at the 2013 world championships before returning to the podium in ’15 with a bronze medal finish. Last summer, he added a gold medal to his collection with Rebecca Gallantree in the inaugural team event competition.

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The Olympic year has fared well for Daley as he’s won six medals (four synchro and two individual) in the 2016 FINA Diving World Series.

Wu Minxia, China

At the London Games, Wu made history by becoming the first woman to win three straight Olympic diving gold medals (in the three-meter synchronized springboard event). Now in Rio, she has a chance to make history again; a seventh medal of any color would be the most Olympic diving medals in history.

Wu isn’t expected to dive in the individual event, but she’ll chase her fourth gold in the synchronized three-meter springboard event, paired up with Shi Tingmao, the 2015 FINA diver of the year. The two won the last two world championship gold medals in the event.

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Kassidy Cook, USA

Cook is an early favorite to become a darling of these Olympics Games; she missed qualifying for London in 2012 by less than half a point, and just a few weeks later she tore her labrum. After injuries and ensuing surgeries, Cook finally made her return to international competition in February, placing seventh at the FINA World Cup in Rio. She may not be a favorite for gold as China has won the last seven springboard medals, but Cook’s return from repeat heartbreak is a commendable effort to bring to the world stage.

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Gold-medal dates

Diving will be contested from Aug. 7–20.

Aug. 7 – Women’s synchronized 3m springboard final

Aug. 8 – Men’s synchronized 10m platform final

Aug. 9 – Women’s synchronized 10m platform final

Aug. 10 – Men’s synchronized 3m springboard final

Aug. 14 – Women’s 3m springboard final

Aug. 16 – men’s 3m springboard final

Aug. 18 – Women’s 10m platform final

Aug. 20 – Men’s 10m platform final