China makes early statement at Diving World Cup

STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer Published:

LONDON (AP) -- China lived up to its billing as the dominant force in diving as the World Cup began Monday with the sport's top names giving a thumbs-up to the venue that will host the competition at this summer's Olympics.

Qin Kai and Luo Yutong easily topped the scoring in the preliminary round for the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard, the first event of a weeklong meet at the Aquatic Center in London's Olympic Park.

The Chinese pair will be favorites to win gold when the finals take place later Monday while teammate Chen Ruolin, a double Olympic champion, is expected to dominate the women's 10-meter platform in the day's preliminary round.

After sweeping all 10 golds at last year's world championships and dominating recent Olympics, China has few rivals in diving. This week is as much about sampling the atmosphere and feel of an Olympic venue as winning medals.

The event also provides the final opportunity for divers to secure qualification places for the games.

"Pools have their own uniqueness, design and engineering to depict culture, history or innovation. This captured all of them," said American diver Troy Dumais, a three-time Olympian who finished qualifying for the men's event in fourth place with partner Kristian Ipsen.

"These are phenomenal facilities. We don't often get to see things like this and sometimes it can be overwhelming and mythical, and it can throw you out of your routine. But you just have to tell yourself, '3 meters is 3 meters.'"

Ipsen went even further.

"I think it's definitely at the top," the 19-year-old Ipsen said, when asked how it compared to other aquatic centers.

"It's awesome, fun to dive in."

Part of the "gateway" to the Olympic Park, the purpose-built venue -- which has a spectacular wavelike roof -- is regarded as the one of the iconic stadiums for the games.

"What a fantastic arena and to fit 17,500 people in it for the Olympics is going to be amazing," British diver Nick Robinson-Baker said.

British fans are riding on the wave of euphoria following last week's Track Cycling World Cup meet, which the host nation dominated just across the Olympic Park at the velodrome.

Tom Daley, who at the age of 15 won gold in the individual 10-meter platform at the 2009 world championships, is Britain's biggest hope in diving and will compete with Peter Waterfield in the synchro on Thursday.

Even Daley has acknowledged, however, that China is currently light years ahead of the rest when it comes to medal chances.

Aside from Chen, who won both the 10-meter platform and synchronized 10-meter platform in Beijing, China also has Olympic champions from 2008 in Qin (3-meter synchronized) and He Chong (individual 3-meter springboard) competing this week.

Dumais, who competed in the last three Olympics, isn't overawed.

"They are human, they will make mistakes," Dumais told The Associated Press. "They are phenomenal athletes but it's mind games.

"Get up there and do it, trust your partner, know what you are doing."

Dumais and Ipsen are one of the teams needing a top-four finish to seal a qualification place for the London Games.

China, Russia and Mexico qualified for the 3-meter synchro after finishing on the podium at last year's worlds, while Britain qualified as host nation.