Shi Tingmao - Five things to know about the Chinese diver

The 29-year-old diver from Chongqing has won every major international title. Find out more about the woman who will lead the Chinese team at Tokyo 2020.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Shi Tingmao burst onto the international diving scene at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai.

That year, at 20 years old, Shi won gold in the women's 1m springboard event in front of a raucous Chinese home crowd.

Since then, the 29-year-old has gone on to become a double Olympic champion, winning gold in the 3m springboard and synchronised 3m springboard events in Rio. She has also won seven world titles in addition to that first one in 2011.

The diver from Chongqing is also a five-time Asian Games champion, and one of the favourites for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, but did you know the following facts about the diver with a total of 45 Diving World Series and World Cup wins under her belt?

1. Shi Tingmao didn't start out as a diver

The young Shi was not originally a diver. In fact, she first trained as a gymnast when she was five years old at school in Chongqing.

However, when she reached 8 years old, there was no full-time team for her to move to.

She was spotted by the diving coach, and switched sports. From the age of 15 to 17, she trained with Tsinghua University's diving team in Beijing before moving back to Chongqing in 2008.

Since then, she's gone on to brighter and bigger achievements.

2. Shi Tingmao was originally named Shi Tingting

Shi was born Shi Tingting, not Shi Tingmao. Her father, Shi Xiaolin, has revealed he changed her name at nine years old out of superstition.

In a 2010 interview, he explained: "She used to be called Tingting, but when she was nine after she began diving, calling her 'Tingting' ['ting' is a Mandarin homophone for the word 'to stop'] felt unlucky.

"So we helped her change her name to her current name."

On the other hand, Tingmao, represented by the Chinese characters "廷懋" – chosen by her grandfather –, means "working diligently for the country".

3. The diving champion only joined China's national team at a late age

Shi did not make it into China's main national team until 2012, the year after her 1m springboard World success.

She was already 21 by the time she joined the squad, at an age older than some others retire from the sport.

It turns out her late addition was because of a power struggle within Chinese diving, according to a 2016 report in Chinese media.

During her time at Tsinghua, Shi was trained by Yu Fen, China's former assistant national coach, who left the team after the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

The head of the national diving team, Zhou Jihong, had a complicated relationship with Yu, with that 2016 report even referring to the pair as "sworn enemies".

It took Shi winning World gold to finally convince Zhou to include Shi in the full national team.

Shi Tingmao competes in the Women's 1m Springboard at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
Picture by 2011 Getty Images

4. Learning from the best

Shi's synchronised 3m partner was Wu Minxia, the most decorated Olympic diver for China.

Their partnership was special, with Wu seeing Shi as a protégée while the younger diver looked up to Wu.

Shi considered Wu to not just be her partner and friend, but also an idol and teacher.

When Wu retired, she passed the captaincy of the Chinese women's diving team to Shi, just as Wu had received it from her previous partner Guo Jingjing.

Wu Minxia (left) and Shi Tingmao (right) competing in the Synchronised 3m Springboard final on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

5. Shi unbeaten in major international competition since 2013

That partnership and mentorship with Wu Minxia has led to an extended run of unbeaten appearances for Shi in the 3m and synchronised 3m events across the four major international competitions – the biennial Diving World Cup, biennial World Championships, quadrennial Asian Games, and the Olympic Games since 2013.

In that time, Shi has won four Asian Games, six World Cup, seven World Championship, and two Olympic gold medals in the 3m and 3m synchro.

However, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games to 2021 caused her to self-admittedly lose confidence, resulting in two defeats by her new synchro partner Wang Han in two Chinese Olympic trial events.

She will look to keep her international streak going when the Games in Japan come around this July and August.

Shi Tingmao of China competes in the 3m Springboard final during the 2021 China Diving Olympic Trials. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

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