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The greatest diving competition ever?

28 July 2002

It was among one of the most gripping diving finals in history, recalling the drama of the 1988 Olympic three-metre springboard competition, when Greg Louganis famously came back to win gold after cracking his head against the board in preliminaries.

Alexandre Despatie

It left spectators and pundits alike breathless with excitement, and asking: was this the greatest diving competition ever seen at the Commonwealth Games?

It was the host nation’s Pete Waterfield (ENG) who came from behind with his final dive to take the gold medal in a fiercely contested final where any one of five men, including hot favourite Alexandre Despatie (CAN), the defending champion, could have won. Between them, they produced 13 perfect marks of 10.0pts during the event.

Here, we outline the significant moments of the competition:

Round 1: After the preliminaries, Despatie, on 205.47pts, led by nearly 6pts from Mathew Helm (AUS), with Leon Taylor (ENG) third and the 1998 Games silver medallist Robert Newbery (AUS) in fourth. Waterfield was fifth (187.59pts).

In the first round of the final, Helm scores five 10s to take the lead from Despatie and Taylor. Waterfield remains in fifth, 25pts in arrears.

Round 2: Despatie performs his signature forward 4.5 somersaults dive. He is one of only two men to perform such a dive, and he re-takes the lead from Taylor with HELM, the bronze medallist at the 2001 World Championships, now third.

Round 3: Newbery, with a backwards 3.5 somersaults, wins this round, scoring a 10 and moving into second place behind the Canadian. Positions third, fourth and fifth – Taylor, Waterfield and Helm – are separated by less than one point.

Round 4: Despatie attempts his favourite dive, the same as Newbery’s previous round effort, but crashes. He plunges down the scoreboard as fast as he does from the highboard, slumping to fifth on 501.09pts. Newbery scores another 10 and takes a clear lead, 527.73 to Taylor’s 518.19. Waterfield remains in fourth, 507.39.

Round 5: Now it is Waterfield’s turn to try the backwards 3.5 somersaults, and he scores big, including one 10, moving to third place with 597.48 to Newbery’s 605.49 and Taylor’s 604.32. Despatie has the best dive of the round, scoring 95.88pts to move to within half a point of Waterfield, but remaining out of the medals.

Final round: Of the leaders, Waterfield dives first. His reverse 3.5 somersaults is magnificent, and his scores include another 10, giving him a total of 690.30. Newbery, the gold medal seemingly within reach, dives next. He attempts the complex backward 2.5 somersaults with 1.5 twists, and it doesn’t come off: he is left nearly 10pts short of Waterfield’s title, and is left to watch to see whether he can hang on to a medal. Up next was Taylor – he tries the same dive as Newbery with an added twist, the most difficult of the night, with a 3.8 degree of difficulty: 689.82pts, less than half a point less than his synchro diving partner.

Just two dives remained: Helm scored excellently, 92.82, but could not improve his position. Could Despatie, who won this title when aged 13 in Kuala Lumpur, retrieve anything from a seemingly impossible position? Performing the same dive as Newbery, the Canadian came within 0.0pt of the silver, and forces Newbery off the medal podium.

It had been a night of breathtaking diving, and breathtaking competition.

Info News Service/sd/sdb

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