Having amassed four Olympic and eight world titles, Wu Minxia is one of the most successful female divers of all time. And after winning the 3m event in brilliant fashion at London 2012, the Chinese legend is now targeting yet more gold in Rio.
Wu Minxia’s long and hugely successful Olympic career began at Athens 2004. Partnering Guo Jingjing, she won gold in the 3m women’s synchronized springboard event, a title the duo retained at Beijing 2008, where Guo added another individual 3m springboard title to go with the one she pocketed in the Greek capital four years earlier.
Just for good measure, the duo also teamed up to win four FINA 3m synchro world titles between 2001 and 2009.
Spotted at a very early age but hampered on her rise to the top by a string of injuries, Wu grew accustomed to being in Guo’s shadow but never gave up hope of fulfilling the dream she had pursued since her childhood, when she would watch on TV as China’s divers soared to success on the Olympic stage, resolving to follow the trail they blazed.
After taking individual 3m springboard silver behind Guo in Athens and collecting the bronze in Beijing, when Russia’s Yuliya Pakhalina split the Chinese duo, the ambitious Wu was determined to kick on and finally make that dream a reality.
The turning point in her career came in 2011, a year that began with Guo announcing her retirement, bringing an end to a career in which she had amassed six Olympic medals, four of them gold, a record unrivalled at the time.
At the worlds later that year in Shanghai, Wu linked up with He Zi to land another synchronised springboard title, while also eclipsing her new partner in the 3m springboard to win her first individual world crown.
A class of her own
There would be identical outcomes at London 2012, where Wu and He eased to synchronised springboard gold, top-scoring with each of their five dives to rack up a total of 346.20 points and win by a distance from USA’s Kelci Bryant and Abigail Johnston, and the Canadian duo of Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans. It was Wu’s third consecutive Olympic gold in the event.
Held over three days, the individual 3m springboard competition began with Wu dominating proceedings in the preliminary round. The 26-year-old was out front again in the following day’s semi-finals, and then closed out the competition a day later with five superb, high-precision dives to win her first individual Olympic gold. The only competitor to score plus-85 marks for her dives and to exceed 400 points in total, Wu was a comfortable winner from team-mate He and Mexico’s Laura Sanchez.
I think we all have a dream, and I chose diving, with my aim being to make a difference Wu Minxia CHN - Wu Minxia CHN
“I think we all have a dream, and I chose diving, with my aim being to make a difference,” she said at the time. “I never gave up on that dream, though I haven’t achieved this on my own. So many people have supported me, from my family and my coach to a whole lot of other people behind the scenes.”
In winning her sixth Olympic medal, Wu joined the great Guo at the pinnacle of women’s diving, while FINA named her Athlete of the Year in the female diving category in 2011 and 2012.
New partner, same success
Wu’s has now joined forces with Shi Tingmao in the 3m synchro event, the pair taking the world title in Barcelona (ESP) in 2013 and retaining it in Kazan (RUS) two years later, with Wu becoming the first diver in history to win seven world golds in the event, with three different partners.
“I’m getting older and it takes longer for me to recover now,” she said after her Kazan triumph. “I need to be efficient when I train and try to avoid picking up injuries. The synchronised was my only event here, and it’s always difficult to win the gold.”
Now 30 and having won more Olympic and world medals than any other female diver, Wu will head to Rio 2016 with designs on a fourth consecutive gold in the 3m synchro, though it remains to be seen if she will also defend the individual title she won in such stunning fashion in London.