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Saturday, August 28, 2004
World champion Despatie of Canada was fourth

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Hu Jia overtook teammate Tian Liang on his next-to-last dive to win the 10-meter platform title Saturday night, giving China a record sixth Olympic diving gold medal.

Hu totaled 748.08 points to upset defending champion Tian in the final diving event of the Athens Games. Mathew Helm of Australia edged Tian for silver by 0.90 points, finishing with 730.56 to Tian's 729.66. World champion Alexandre Despatie of Canada was fourth with 707.46.

Hu got out of water and threw his arms in the air, realizing he had clinched the gold. He had earned platform silver behind Tian at the Sydney Games.

Tian battled his teammate in the fifth round, earning three 10s for an inward tuck with 3 somersaults. But Hu was even better. He surged past Tian into first by earning four perfect 10.0s for a reverse tuck with 3 somersaults.

Hu was even stronger on his last dive, a backward pike with 2 somersaults and 1 twists that scored five 10s.

Helm was third for much of the competition and needed to hit his last dive to break up the Chinese juggernaut. The Aussie came up big, earning four 10s for a backward pike with 2 somersaults and 1 twists. He held up up two fingers in disbelief, then buried his face in his hands.

Despatie dropped into fourth place after his fourth dive and stayed there. The shaggy-haired 19-year-old overrotated on a backward pike with 3 somersaults -- his second-most difficult dive of the competition.

Hu's win means China won all but two of the eight diving events in Athens. One of the golds belongs to Tian, who took the synchronized platform title with partner Yang Jinghui.

Helms teamed with Robert Newbery to win the bronze in that event. Four years ago, he was eighth on the tower.

Despatie already earned silver in the 3-meter springboard.

The judges were generous in awarding 10.0s Saturday night, with all the top four divers getting multiple perfect marks -- just as they did in the semifinals.

The Chinese became a diving powerhouse after winning their first gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. They have now captured 19 of a possible 28 golds over the last five Olympics -- and taken the silver in seven of the nine events they didn't win.

"Obviously, they train very, very hard. Their system is working very good for them," Despatie said. "They have so many athletes, too. If someone isn't good, they just choose another one."

The pool of talented divers doesn't show any signs of letting up in the world's most populous country, especially as China looks ahead to the Beijing Games in 2008.

"We might get someone good who comes along every 10 years," Despatie said. "They get people with a lot of talent, and they get that every year."

Despatie is likely to face the Chinese again in 2008. Hu seems a solid bet to return, but Tian, who turned 25 on Friday, may not.

"When I first got into the sport, the Chinese were like gods," Despatie said. "No one could touch them. They were awesome."

They still are.