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Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Canadian, Russian take silver, bronze

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Maybe Greg Louganis should come out of retirement.

The Americans are plunging toward a dismal performance at the Olympic diving pool, still in search of their first medal of the Athens Games after getting blanked again in men's 3-meter springboard Tuesday night.

Peng Bo won China's third straight gold medal in the event, holding off Canadian teenager Alexandre Despatie and four-time Olympian Dmitri Sautin of Russia.

The Americans? Nowhere near the medal stand.

Troy Dumais, the lone U.S. diver to make the final, started the night in sixth -- and finished there. Now, the Americans are facing the very real possibility of their first Olympic diving shutout since 1912.

There are only two events left, and the U.S. divers aren't considered strong medal contenders in either. Clearly, a sport once dominated by the likes of Louganis, Pat McCormick and Sammy Lee has fallen on hard times in America.

"We have to go back and get to work," U.S. coach Ken Armstrong said. "Work smarter and work harder. It's a good challenge for us. We'll be back, I guarantee you."

It won't be easy catching the Chinese, whose rise to prominence coincided with the American decline.

China's powerful team already has piled up four diving golds in Athens, putting itself in position to equal or beat its five golds from Sydney in 2000.

Peng bounced back from the disappointment of synchronized springboard, in which his partner, Wang Kenan, entered the water totally out of control on the final dive. The belly-flop landing was so bad that the duo scored no points, dropping them from first to last place.

Diving alone, Peng didn't blow it. His dives -- often performed with his mouth wide open -- featured stunning height off the board, tightly wrapped turns and hardly a ripple when he entered the water.

He received five 10s on his second dive, another perfect mark on his fifth and never saw a score lower than 8.0 the entire night.

Peng clinched the gold with one last splash of brilliance -- a forward 2 somersault with two twists. The diminutive 23-year-old climbed from the pool, turning to bow toward the water as the Chinese fans screamed and waved their red-and-yellow flags.

The result wasn't in doubt. A string of 9s flashed across the scoreboard, along with an unbeatable total of 787.38 points. The gold belonged to Peng, who wanted to savor the moment rather than look ahead to 2008, when he could dive in Beijing as the defending Olympic champion.

"From the Chinese point of view, it is very difficult to think that far ahead," he said. "The Chinese tradition is to do things step by step. I have the gold medal today. It doesn't mean I'm going to have it forever."

Dumais climbed to fourth with a strong opening dive, but couldn't follow it up. He wound up matching his sixth-place finish from four years ago, which means he'll return for another try in 2008.

"My job is not done," the 24-year-old Californian said. "My goal is to win a medal at the Olympics. I'll fight until I get one."

Despatie, a 19-year-old native of Montreal, got the silver with a strong final dive that pushed him to 755.97. He was elated with the result, considering he's a platform specialist and figures to be one of the leading contenders in that event.

He was the first Canadian man to win a diving medal.

"I'm very happy I was able to come back and finish strong," Despatie said. "When I saw that '2' I couldn't believe it. It was the most amazing surprise."

The youngster barely beat out the grizzled veteran. Sautin, who received a big cheer before his final dive, struggled a bit with his entry and slipped to third with 753.27. Still, it was another award for one of the greatest divers in history.

The 30-year-old Sautin now has two gold medals, a silver and four bronzes over his illustrious career.

"That's not bad," he said.

Sautin isn't sure if he'll return for another Olympics. His training this year was limited by a shoulder injury, and the rest of his body doesn't feel so good, either.

"This is perhaps my last Olympics," Sautin said. "My body has suffered a lot of scars, lots of operations. My health isn't what it used to be. I've had a lot of aches and pains this year."

Dumais finished with 701.46. He added a tougher dive to his list in hopes of improving his score, but the move failed to pay off when he received mediocre marks -- ranging from 6.0 to 7.5 -- for his inward 3 somersault.

"I just didn't see the water," Dumais said. "I just left it a little short. I showed everybody I can do the dive. I'm happy. I wasn't holding back."

He also bristled at the possibility of a medal shutout, pointing out that the American baseball team didn't even qualify for the Olympics.

"It's not about the medals," he said. "It's about enjoying it, having a good time and bringing back the memories."