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China's Wu Minxia cements her name in Olympic history

By Sun Xiaochen in Rio de Janeiro (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2016-08-08 11:52

China's Wu Minxia cements her name in Olympic history

Gold medalists Shi Tingmao, right, and Wu Minxia celebrate after winning the 3 Meter Synchronized Springboard final at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre during the 2016 Rio Olympics. [Photo/Agencies]

At the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center at Rio's Olympic Park that was named to memorialize Brazil's greatest female swimmer, Chinese diving diva Wu Minxia cemented her name in Olympic history.

Wu, together with partner Shi Tingmao, won the women's synchronized 3m springboard gold medal with five flawless dives, getting China's mighty diving squad off to a flying start on its Rio campaign while becoming the most decorated woman in the sport's history.

With the 345.6-point final performance, Wu became the first woman to win a gold medal in four consecutive Olympics and the oldest female to win an Olympic diving gold medal at the age of 30 years and 271 days.

She also set the record for winning the most Olympic diving gold medals with her fifth at Rio and has joined five-time Olympic titlist male gymnast Zou Kai to become China's most decorated Olympians.

Her record-smashing final performance on Sunday was witnessed and cheered by a boisterous crowd that including her parents, mixed with Brazilian and Chinese fans. They chanted "China!" while flying red flags to support her at the venue, which was built to honor Lenk, Brazil's first world-record holder in women's 200m breaststroke and a FINA Swimming Hall of Famer.

Having competed worldwide for almost two decades, Wu said her nerve and excitement approaching the final remained the same every time at a major event.

"I still felt nervous before the final and I prepared and executed the routines like I usually do. Nothing really special," said the Shanghai native, who started diving training in 1991.

"But when I stepped down the podium after the medal ceremony, I started to miss it at once as I won't have the chance to make my way on it again. It (the feeling on the podium) was too beautiful to say goodbye," said Wu, who hinted she will retire after Rio.

Despite pride and honor under the spotlight, Wu said she wouldn't have continued if she knew how many adversities lay ahead after winning two gold medals, including an individual 3m board, at the 2012 London Olympics.

Since withdrawing from the National Games in 2013 for a wrist inflammation, a series of injuries on her neck, waist and leg daunted her courage to continue the rigorous training regime six days a week.

As she grows older, Wu needs more therapy time to recover from training, so she returns home from the training facility last almost every day. 

"It feels like I have no other parts on my body that could bear another injury," she said.

"Every time after a major event I thought about quitting but the motivation of breaking the age barrier and statistic records has driven me through," she said.

Leaving the Olympic stage as a legend, Wu has earned credits from opponents and the younger generation.

"I am happy for her, she deserves it. For us, it (competing against the Chinese) is like running against (Usain) Bolt," said Italian diver Tania Cagnotto, who won the silver medal in the event with partner Francesca Dallape.

Australian pair Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith won the bronze medal in the event.

Wu's partner Shi, who is six years younger, said practicing side-by-side with "sister Xia" and looking up to her offers a big inspiration to pursue more glory on her own.

"She's been a role model for us who always stays strict and rigorous in training. Her competence to success at the Olympics at this age has proved that and motivated me," said Shi, who claimed her first Olympic gold medal on Sunday.

After retiring from competition, Wu said she plans to return to college for a sports-related postgraduate program and continue her post-athletic career around the event.

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