China handed second gold from 'Spanish' diver Li
China's Li Shixin drew inspiration from the spectacular hilltop setting to help secure his second consecutive men's one-metre springboard title at the world championships in Barcelona on Monday.
The Montjuic pool affords stunning views over the Catalan capital and Li held his nerve through a tense battle to produce a superb final dive and extend Chinese domination in the event he won in Shanghai two years ago but which is not part of the Olympic programme.
Ukraine's Illya Kvasha took silver, while Alejandro Chavez of Mexico sprang a surprise by pipping Li's teammate Sun Zhiyi to the bronze. It was the first time China had failed to win both gold and silver in four championships.
"When I was younger my coach showed me a video of this pool during the 1992 Olympic Games," Li, who spends a lot of time in Spain and is known back home as 'the Spanish diver', said.
"It was my dream to compete here and of course to dive well," he added.
Image: A combination photograph shows China's Li Shixin performing a dive at the men's 1m springboard final during the World Swimming Championships at the Montjuic municipal pool in Barcelona on Monday
Photographs: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters
'I was a bit nervous until the fourth dive'
"I was a bit nervous until the fourth dive but then my coach told me to relax and I made my last two rounds with more confidence."
Li's gold was China's second of the championships after Wu Minxia won an unprecedented sixth three-metre springboard synchro title on Saturday and diving's dominant nation secured their third later on Monday when Chen Ruolin swept to her fourth 10-metre synchro gold in a row.
Chen and Liu Huixia, her fourth teammate in four championships, amassed 356.28 points from their five dives, comfortably beating Canada's Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion into second on 331.41.
Malaysia's Pandelela Rinong Pamg and Mun Yee Leong repeated their bronze medal from 2009 in third on 331.14.
Image: Li Shixin of China competes in the Men's 1m springboard diving final on day three of the 15th FINA World Championships at Piscina Municipal de Montjuic on in Barcelona, Spain on Monday
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Today, pairing with Liu is an entire new experience: Chen
Twice a double Olympic champion in the 10-metre individual and synchro in Beijing in 2008 and London last year, Chen said the secret of her success was simple, hard grind.
"Our coach often tells us: when you step down from the podium you start again from zero," she said.
"The experience is important but it is not enough to get a medal. You have to continue working hard.
"In 2007 when I got my first gold in this event with Jia Tong, we were a very new duet.
"Today, pairing with Liu is an entire new experience. She is very young, but at the same time very strong and quite adaptable."
In the men's springboard, Li trailed for the first four rounds of the final before moving into the lead in the fifth round with an inward 2.5 somersaults.
He then bagged 87.45 points for his sixth and last dive, a forward 3.5 somersaults, the highest score of the final, to triumph by more than 26 points.
Image: China's Liu Huixia and Chen Ruolin perform a dive at the women's synchronised 10m platform preliminary during the World Swimming Championships at the Montjuic municipal pool in Barcelona on Monday
Photographs: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters
'Spain is almost second home for me'
"The other competitors were very strong," Li said. "I was simply luckier today."
Li scored 460.95 points, with Kvasha on 434.30, Chavez 431.55 and Sun 425.05.
Things have not always gone Li's way since his victory in Shanghai and he said suggestions from some quarters that he should retire had proved premature.
"My coach and my team leader always supported me to continue," he said. "They were right! Today, their help paid off.
"Spain is a very special country for me. Since 2005, I came here seven times so this is almost a second home for me."
China have won seven out of 10 one-metre springboard golds since the event was introduced in 1991, with Alexandre Despatie of Canada the last non-Chinese winner in 2005.
Image: Gold medallist Li Shixin of China celebrates after winning the Men's 1m Springboard Diving final on day three of the 15th FINA World Championships at Piscina Municipal de Montjuic in Barcelona on Monday
Photographs: Adam Pretty/Getty Images