RIO DE JANEIRO: Shi Tingmao claimed gold for China in Sunday’s 3m springboard diving final, but was relegated to third wheel by newly engaged teammates He Zi and Qin Kai.
Qin, bronze medallist in the men’s 3m synchronised springboard, got down on one knee whilst silver medallist He was on her lap of honour and, after a lengthy wait, finally got the all-important “yes” he was looking for.
“He said a lot of things, made a lot of promises, but I think the thing that touched me the most is I think this is the guy I can trust for the rest of my life,” said He, proudly displaying her shiny new ring.
He and Qin have been dating since 2010, and whilst being caught off guard, she admitted she nearly rumbled his plan as Qin got in some proposal practice on Sunday morning.
“This morning in his room he was reciting something and I didn’t notice (what it was). I asked him and he said he was singing,” added He, who also won silver in London four years ago.
“I didn’t know he was (practicing) the proposal.”
Shi was more in the loop as she had the inside track on Qin’s plans.
“Both of them have gone through a lot. It is a very special moment for them,” said the champion, who delivered her second gold of the Games after teaming up with Wu Minxia in the 3m synchronised springboard.
Indeed, Qin and his other partner Cao Yuan cost China the chance of a clean sweep of all eight diving golds when they lost out to British and American pairs in the men’s 3m synchronised springboard.
“Qin said it better himself when he said this is how it is meant to be,” said Shi.
But 24-year-old Shi is in no hurry to get married herself.
“I think I should leave it to fate. I don’t like particular kinds of men, you have to go with your feeling.”
Shi scored 406.05 for her five dives to beat out He on 387.90.
Italy’s Tania Cagnotto (372.80) claimed bronze with a performance she likened to winning gold given the Chinese dominance of diving.
Cagnotto also claimed silver behind Shi in the 3m synchronised springboard.
“I just wanted to do my best competition because this would be my last one,” said the 31-year-old.
“For me it is like a gold medal to finish behind these two.”
The dramatic post-competition events also took some of the heat off organisers as the final was again played out in a murky green pool.
The adjacent synchronised swimming pool at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre had been pumped out and replaced overnight.
“I’m glad to be out now,” said Australia’s Maddison Keeney after finishing fifth.
“I don’t want to go diving in the swamp again.”