AFTER THEIR MIRROR-IMAGE dives in the women's three-meter springboard event, Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing, matched in slight build and height, emerged from the water and bowed to the audience--in sync, of course. China quickly established its dominance in the opening days of diving, winning every synchronized event except the men's springboard, in which leaders Peng Bo and Wang Kenan blew their final dive. That mistake enabled the Greek duo of Nikolaos Siranis and Thomas Bimis to win their country's first gold medal of the Games.
Though China continues to choose young diving prospects and train them at state sport schools ("They learn the best techniques right away," said Australian bronze medalist Chantelle Newbery, "whereas we start when we're 12 for fun, learn a few bad habits and spend a lot of time trying to get rid of them"), the ones who reach the Olympics are becoming more Westernized. The two biggest stars, Guo, 22, and men's 10-meter platform gold medalist Tian Liang, 24, still live in dormitories with 6 a.m. reveille and 10 p.m. lights out and nine hours of training in between, but they are well rewarded. In China, Guo and Tian are heroes with endorsement deals from multinational companies. And they're such celebrities that their countrymen are abuzz over a rumor that the divers will neither confirm nor deny: that they're a couple. --K.A.