Olympic divers deal with changing conditions at outdoor pool
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) There was rain and wind, bright sunshine and gloomy clouds.
Even green water.
For the first time since 1992, Olympic diving was held in an outdoor facility, exposed to whatever elements - both natural and man-made - got thrown its way.
The athletes, for the most part, seemed to adapt just fine to the ever-changing conditions.
''The weather conditions are always a factor when it's outdoors, but it's definitely still great to be able to compete outdoors for a change,'' said Melissa Wu of Australia. ''When the conditions are bad, everyone is sort of in the same boat anyway. I guess it comes down to who handles it best on the day, which is pretty much what diving is anyway. It's a real mental game.''
While there were some surprises along the way - windy conditions were a big factor when a reigning world champion from powerhouse China was knocked out in the preliminaries of men's 3-meter springboard - the results have largely followed pre-Olympic expectations.
China dominated the competition again, going into Saturday's final event, men's 10-meter platform, with six of the seven gold medals.
''It's a nice change-up to have it outside,'' American Jessica Parratto said. ''Obviously, Rio is a beautiful place and it's hot out, so it's nice. There's all kinds of weather conditions we could have, but you just have to stay focused and know that you're doing the same five dives that you've always been doing and just try not to be distracted by the elements.''
He Chao couldn't cope when strong winds whipped up during the springboard prelims. He balked on a pair of dives and finished 21st, one year after winning the world championship in Russia.
''I prepared for four years for this competition and to end it like this, I feel very disappointed,'' he said. ''It was the wind that really affected the start of my dive. We didn't train in these kinds of very windy conditions before at all.''
This is the first truly outdoor Olympic competition since the Barcelona Games, when diving was held at the stunning pool atop Montjuic, with its dazzling backdrop of the city below.
In 1996, swimming and diving were staged at a pool in Atlanta that wasn't enclosed but did have a roof. The last four Olympics were all held inside, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will feature a new indoor aquatics facility.
World governing body FINA griped about the open-air facility less than a year before Rio, arguing that changing weather conditions ''may influence not only the athletes' performances, but more importantly their health and safety.'' FINA did not respond to a request for comment on its assessment of the diving competition with the end of the games approaching.
There was talk of putting a temporary roof over the pool, but those plans never materialized as financially strapped Rio struggled just to get all its venues completed. At least pool was already in place, having been built for the 2007 Pan American Games.
In addition to wind, the divers had to compete in light rain one day, but that didn't seem to cause any major problems. Amazingly, the biggest issue was apparently caused by human error, suddenly turning the water green in both the diving well and a larger, adjacent pool used for water polo and synchronized swimming.
The bigger pool eventually was drained and filled with clear water from a practice pool, but the divers had to compete for several days in the unusual conditions. Eventually, venue workers were able to clean the water up for the final days of the competition, but not before one practice session was canceled and several divers had a few laughs. Abby Johnston of the United States dubbed it ''the swamp,'' while Germany's Patrick Hausding posted a picture on social media in which he and his teammates had tinted themselves green.
''I knew it was going to be an interesting Olympics, different from some of the others,'' American Kristian Ipsen said. ''There's a lot more variables you have to deal with in comparison to an Olympics that is indoors. But overall, I felt like everyone dealt with it very well.''
There was even an added benefit to diving outdoors.
''You can get a nice tan,'' Parratto said. ''You can't beat that.''
AP Sports Writer Beth Harris contributed to this report.
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