There was only one event on the docket at the 2013 Diving World Championships in Barcelona on Wednesday. The preliminaries and semifinals of the Women's 10-meter Platform Diving event took place on the afternoon, and a familiar face will enter the final as the favorite.
Chen Ruolin finished third in the preliminaries, but rebounded to finish as the top qualifier during the semifinals. The two-time Olympic champion in the event finished with a score of 373.65, edging out Tonia Couch by roughly five points for the right to go last in the final on Thursday.
Ruolin has been in this position before. She captured gold for China in the platform final in Beijing in 2008, and followed up that stellar international debut with a repeat performance in London in 2012.
Associated Press writer Paul Newberry had the tweet as Ruolin celebrated her first-place finish in the semifinals:
Couch, Si Yajie, Roseline Filion and Maria Kurjo rounded out the top five. Yajie was the top performer in the preliminary round, but it was Ruolin's late charge and consistent dives that allowed her to pass her Chinese teammate at the end of the semifinals.
|Rank||Diver||Nationality||Preliminary Finish||Total Points|
|8||Pandelela Rinong Pamg||MAS||2||314.15|
Full results can be found at FINA.org
Great Britain's Sarah Barrow finished sixth. According to BBC Sport, Barrow and Couch both making the final marks the first time Great Britain has had two women finalists at the World Championships in the event.
Thirty-six women competed in the preliminary round, but only 18 moved on to the semifinals. As mentioned, Yajie was the top performer in the field during the opening round.
The youngest competitor to reach the finals, Ruolin's Chinese teammate had a score of 44.55 for her fourth dive and it kept her out of the mix for the top spot. Only Iuliia Prokopchuk (34.80 on third dive) had a lower score among those that reached the finals.
Yajie would finish third even with the disappointing score and will be in a good position to challenge for the gold medal on Thursday.
Couch was the overall leader after the second, third and fourth rounds of the semifinals. Her 83.20 dive in the second round was the best score of any of the 18 competitors in the second round, and she had a lead of 2.45 points heading into the final dive.
As you can see from this Women's Sports News tweet, Couch was impressive during the majority of her dives on Wednesday:
She would falter in her final dive, though, posting the worst score (68.85) of her five attempts. That miscue, coupled with Ruolin's 76.80 in her final dive, pushed Couch to second in the standings and allowed Ruolin to take the overall lead prior to the final.
Ruolin is seeking what would be her sixth gold medal in a diving event at the World Championships. Her fifth came on Monday in the 10-meter Synchronized Platform event with partner Liu Huixia. Singapore Netizens had this tweet as Ruolin captured that victory on Monday:
CNA - Diving: China storm to gold in women's 10m synchro platform: The Chinese pair of Chen Ruolin and Liu Hui... http://t.co/ghGE9tzkNm— Singapore Netizens (@SingaporeClub) July 22, 2013
Ruolin and her Chinese teammates have captured five of the first six diving titles so far in Barcelona.
A somewhat slow start in the preliminaries for Ruolin was erased in the finals. Four other women who would not have made the finals (the top 12 earn that honor) based on their finish in the preliminary round rebounded to grab a spot in Thursday's finale.
Filion and Kurjo would have both been on the outside looking in if the preliminary scores were all the judges took; however, both finished inside the top five in impressive fashion.
Victoria Lamp, the American who finished 18th in the preliminaries and barely made it into the semifinals, and Laura Marino were the other two women who did enough to improve their first-round performance in the form of a finals bid.
One of the most confusing appearances in the semifinals came from Pandelela Rinong Pamg. Her first and third dives were the highest of any woman in the field, but her other three scores (14th, 17th and 17th) left her sitting at eighth in the standings at the conclusion on Wednesday's action.
Pamg will be a dark horse to crack the top three and reach the podium on Thursday.
The United States' chances to pull off an upset and win the gold medal are already slim. As noted by Newberry, they got slimmer when Lamp's teammate was eliminated from contention:
Victoria Lamp advances to finals of #SwimWorlds 10-meter platform diving (9th in semis). But teammate Amy Cozad fails to qualify (14th).— Paul Newberry (@pnewberry1963) July 24, 2013
Cozad will be a replacement for the finals, along with Russia's Ganna Krasnoshlyk.
The Women's 10-meter Platform Diving final will commence at 5:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET) on Thursday. For a detailed look at the order in which the 12 finalists will compete, check out FINA.org.
Who will win Thursday's final?
Ruolin is leading, Couch and Yajie are charging and a host of other women will look to dethrone them all when the action picks back up in Barcelona in the final.
Smart money sides with the two-time Olympic champion, but don't discount the podium looking different than the top-three standings did on Wednesday.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.