Interview: 14-year-old Olympic champion diver Quan jumps out from hopscotch game

BEIJING, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) – After 14-year-old Chinese diver Quan Hongchan snatched the women’s 10m platform Olympic gold with the highest score in history, Xinhua senior sportswriter Zhou Xin interviewed her and published the story on the official website of FINA, the global swimming governing body.

The Canton Tower, the famous 600m-tall landmark in Guangzhou, dedicated a special light show to Quan after the 14-year-old delivered three perfect marks in her five dives to claim her gold at Tokyo 2020 on August 5.

Quan became the second-youngest Chinese gold medallist in the event in Olympic history after Fu Mingxia won the same event in 1992 at just 13. Quan was also the youngest athlete in China’s delegation to Tokyo.

Born on March 28, 2007, Quan grew up in the small village of Maihe, in Zhanjiang city, Guangdong Province. She is the third among five children in her family, with an elder brother and sister and a younger brother and sister. Quan started diving at the age of seven in Zhanjiang and joined the Guangdong Province team in 2018.

Guangdong has long been one of the powerhouses of Chinese diving, with many Olympic and World champions, including China’s first diving world champion Chen Xiaoxia, Olympic champion Sun Shuwei, Hu Jia, Yang Jinghui and Xie Siyi.

It took Quan more than three years to become an Olympic champion since she won her first three titles at the Guangdong Junior Championships in 2018 and swept five gold medals the following year. She was selected to the national team at the end of 2020.

The full interview is as follows:

Q: How did you start diving?

A: One day, I was playing hopscotch with my friends during a break at school when I was seven. Chen Huaming, a former diver and coach from Zhanjiang City Sports School, gave the thumbs-up to my jumping ability. He said that I was tiny and swift, but able to jump higher and longer than the others. At that time, I was 1.20m tall and could jump as long as 1.76m. Coach Chen, who was doing his annual work to scout young talents all over the city and in rural areas, went to my home and spoke to my parents. He taught me diving at school in Zhanjiang. I had never tried any other sports before but I enjoyed playing in the water. It was a good start for me that I jumped from the platform into the water ahead of other kids without hesitation.

Q: How was your life in the sports school?

A: I was not good at studying but I found confidence in diving. I tried my best to focus on diving, with every requirement that my coach told us. There was an outdoor diving pool and out-of-date springboard facilities in our school. We trained about seven months every year according to the weather. I always had fun in the dry-land exercises. My younger brother and sister later went to my school and started diving, too.

Q: Do you think yourself a talented diver?

A: No. No. No. I am not a talent. I spend all my attention on diving and work hard at every training session. Hard work is all I can do. When I entered the national team, I knew that everyone was better than me in technique and was more experienced.

Q. Did you dream of attending the Olympic Games one year ago?

A: I had no idea. I competed in my first Chinese National Championships on October 4, 2020. It was the first national level meet held after the COVID-19 pandemic began. As a teenage diver, I completed all five category dives three weeks before the championships. My Guangdong team coach He Weiyi told me to gain some experience, but I snatched the 10m platform gold by beating some big names, including Rio Olympic champion Ren Qian, and world champions Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi. At the end of 2020, I was recruited to the national team but I had technical problems and had some ups and downs as I finished fifth in the second leg of Olympic qualification in January 2021 and placed second in a national meet in March, and then gold at the third leg qualifiers in May. If the Tokyo Olympic Games were held as scheduled, I would not have made the team, because I was under the 14-year-old age limit, and I didn’t learn the full competition routine.

Q: How did you compare national competition to the Olympic Games?

A: I felt more nervous at the Olympic Games. I had never competed in a foreign country and stayed in the Olympic Athlete Village. I could not sleep at night. I was scared to enter the Tokyo Aquatic Centre because it was too big for me. I was like a Lilliputian diving in a giant world. Fortunately, the 10m platform competition was held two weeks after our arrival and I had enough time to get used to the venue. Coach Liu Ben tried hard to help me relax and switch my attention to other things. He kept telling jokes and other divers’ stories. That helped me a lot. Chen Yuxi also guided through the whole competition, just like my elder sister.

Q: What was on your mind during the final? Did you notice your perfect marks?

A: I made some mistakes in the preliminaries and my coach gave me more technical instructions in the semifinal and final. I listened to his words carefully and followed his cues in my five dives. I didn’t have spare time to think about other things, including the scores.

Q: When you saw the big screen with your name, what was your reaction? Did you know that you set the record highest score in this event of 466.20 points?

A: I didn’t know the record. It was beyond my expectations. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Only after my coach lifted me up and everyone congratulated me, I started to realize I had won gold. I was in shock. It was an unbelievable moment that I will never forget.

Q: It seems like you have some sort of special entry magic to eliminate the splash. How do you do that?

A: I only did few perfect entries during training. I think I performed beyond my ability in the final. I was too excited.

Q: As a 14-year-old rookie, how did your family members encourage you before the Games?

A: My parents told me to forget about the scores, and concentrate on my own dives.

Q: How did you celebrate your victory as an Olympic champion?

A: In many ways. My mom had a car accident four years ago and went to hospital frequently. I wanted to earn more money to help cure her. My gold medal is the best gift for her. I want to eat my favorite snacks as much as possible, and I want to go to the amusement park after our National Games. I’d like to play the doll-grasp machine and grab many dolls. I had a wish to own a small grocery store in my hometown, but now my dream is upgraded to a supermarket. But the most important thing is to prepare for our National Games which will be held in September. Enditem

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