China's Cao Yuan dominates men's 3m for gold; no medals for USA
In a final that seeemed wide open with both the reigning Olympic champion and World champion out, China's Cao Yuan made sure that it wasn't.
Cao set the gold standard throughout his 547.60-point program Tuesday night at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center in Rio, leading from start to finish to win the gold medal -- China's fifth gold in six diving events these Olympic Games.
Great Britain's Jack Laugher took silver with 523.85 points. Germany's Patrick Hausding -- "Mr. Fourth Place" -- finally cracked the podium and won bronze with 498.90 points, turning in the best dive of the night along the way -- a difficult forward 4.5 tuck for 98.80 points in Round 5.
It was a strong showing for USA divers Kristian Ipsen and Michael Hixon, but they will leave Rio without a medal in the individual 3m. Ipsen finished fifth with 475.80 points and Hixon finished 10th with 431.65 points.
"I’m happy with my performance," Ipsen said. "It was definitely better than my semifinal. I’m happy that I came back and hit the dive that I missed really bad in the semifinal. I’m also happy that I decided to switch my last round dive to triple out because I hit it and I think it scored more than I would have if I stayed with the double out. I haven’t hit (the triple out) all week. That was the first time all week that I hit it, so I think that was my face of shock. I was so happy to hit it. I was super stoked."
For the first time since 2000, the United States placed two competitors in the top 10 of the men's 3m. It was 16 years ago when Troy Dumais finished sixth and Mark Ruiz finished seventh in the Sydney Games.
"I felt like I underperformed, but it was a good experience and I took a lot away from it," Hixon said. "I would say I probably missed three out of six dives, so there’s a lot more to be done. Consistency is the name of the game. At this level, everybody can do big dives and do them well. It’s all about what’s going on up here in the brain."
"This has been an awesome experience," he added. "Obviously there were things I could have done better here and there in all of my events, but overall, this was a great experience."
Laugher earned a medal after narrowly dodging elimination in the semifinal. He leapfrogged Italy's Michele Benedetti on his final dive for the 12th and ultimate berth in the final. The high-flying 21-year-old is putting serious pressure on Tom Daley for the crown among English divers. Laugher will take home the individual 3m silver medal in addition to the gold he won with partner Chris Mears in the synchronized 3m last Wednesday -- the only gold that is currently preventing China from sweeping all eight diving events.
After a strong opening dive, Cao delivered back-to-back 94.50-point dives to distance himself from the pack. The 21-year-old ripped all six entries and slammed the door shut with a 96.90 on his final attempt. He eclipsed the 90-point mark on four of his six dives.
Hausding finished fourth in the individual 3m in 2012. He finished fourth in the synchronized 10m with teammate Sascha Klein last Monday. And he finished fourth in the synchronized 3m with teammate Stephan Feck last Wednesday. But one of the taller and more versatile divers in the field will indeed take home a medal these Olympic Games to pair with the silver he won in the synchronized 3m during the 2008 Beijing Games.
Rommel Pacheco finished second in both the preliminary and semifinal, but the veteran from Mexico began the final with two of his worst dives of the two-day event. Despite a massive 96.90-point dive in his final attempt, Pacheco finished well off the podium in seventh place with 451.20 points.
The level of compeition rose considerably with medals on the line. The final saw significantly cleaner entries and higher scores than in the preliminary and semifinal.
Kristian Ipsen's list
1. Back 2.5 pike -- 3.0 degree of difficulty -- 72.00 points
2. Inward 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 75.00
3. Forward 3.5 pike -- 3.1 -- 72.85
4. Reverse 1.5 free 3.5 twists -- 3.5 -- 89.25
5. Reverse 3.5 tuck -- 3.4 -- 77.00
6. Forward 2.5 pike 3 twists -- 3.9 -- 89.70
Total score: 475.80
Michael Hixon's list
1. Back 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 60.00
2. Forward 2.5 pike 2 twists -- 3.4 -- 81.60
3. Reverse 1.5 free 3.5 twists -- 3.5 -- 85.75
4. Reverse 3.5 tuck -- 3.5 -- 77.00
5. Forward 4.5 tuck -- 3.8 -- 62.70
6. Inward 3.5 tuck -- 3.4 -- 64.60
Total score: 431.65