Olympic Diving 2012: Biggest Shocks from London

Paul Tierney@PTT91Correspondent IAugust 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Silver medallist Kai Qin of China, gold medallist Illya Zakharov of Russia, and bronze medallist Chong He of China pose on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's 3m Springboard Diving Final on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 7, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

As the 2012 Olympic diving schedule begins to wrap-up with the Men's 10m Platform as the only remaining event, there have been several unexpected story lines to come to fruition as the games have progressed. In a sport that has been utterly dominated by the Chinese throughout the past several Olympics, a semblance of parity has become readily apparent in the diving world.

Let's take a look at three more surprising outcomes and story lines from London so far.

Ilya Zakharov Takes Gold in Men's 3-Meter Springboard

Perhaps one of the most surprising outcomes from the entire games was that Ilya Zhakarov of Russia was able to upend the reigning world champion He Chong of China in the Men's 3-Meter Springboard event.

Chong appeared to have a stranglehold on the competition throughout the preliminary rounds. However, Zhakarov showed serious potential throughout the entire competition, and he finally put it together to overtake Chong in the finals. 

To take it one step further, Chong didn't even win a silver medal. His countrymen and teammate Qin Kai took home the silver. The competition came down to the last dive, as Kai scored 89.10 points for a reverse 2½ somersault with 1½ twists pike, while Zhakarov pulled off an incredible four-and-a-half somersault tuck, which earned him 104.5 points and the gold medal.

In a competition where China was expected to win gold handedly, Zhakarov pulled an incredible, yet unlikely upset.

The United States Ends Its 12 Year Medal Drought

Although the discipline of synchronized diving has been mocked ever since its inception in the 2000 games, it was the event that finally ended a twelve year medal drought for the United States. Although the US came into London with the hope of garnering at least one medal, they have two heading into the Men's 10m Platform Final on Saturday, where David Boudia is expected to compete for yet another medal.

The streak was broken when Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston earned a silver medal, and the next day David Boudia and Nick McCrory took home a bronze. 

In a series of competitions that are no longer considered an American strong-suit, the United States has competed well throughout the London games. Although historically the US has been one of the most dominant diving teams around, the recent emergence of China in the sport has brought the international competition to a new level. After not meddling for the past three Olympics, the US should be proud of their effort.

England's Chris Mears Qualifies for the Men's 3-Meter Springboard Final

After suffering a devastating injury at a junior competition as a 19 year old diver, Chris Mears was given just a five percent chance of survival heading into his life-saving surgery. In his home country, Mears completed a long road back to Olympic glory, as he qualified for the Men's 3-Meter Springboard final.

Although Mears finished ninth in the competition, he scored the second highest total for an individual dive, a forward four-and-a-half somersault. The dive earned him an impressive 100.7 points.

This story is a testament to how the Olympics are not just about the best athletes the world has to offer competing to prove themselves, its about the journey and incredible sacrifices made to get themselves in a position to succeed. Although Chris Mears wasn't a winner in the official standings, he was victorious in the minds and hearts of all who had the honor to watch him compete.