AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
LONDON: Defending champion He Chong goes into the final of the men's 3m springboard as the Olympic gold medal favourite after topping the semi-final qualifiers on Tuesday.
He trailed after four of the six rounds but came home strongly to finish with 510.15 points, 4.55 clear of Russian Ilya Zakharov (505.60) and 9.80 ahead of Chinese teammate Qin Kai (500.35) to head the 12-man field into Tuesday night's final.
Two-time world champion He took control with a score of 91.80 for an inward three and a half somersault with tuck in the third round and 91.20 for a forward four and a half somersault on his fourth dive.
China have already won the opening five diving events as they target an unprecedented clean sweep of all eight gold medals in London after finishing with seven of the eight golds in Beijing four years ago.
"I think my performance is just so-so," He said. "I still have room to improve for the final because I can do much better in training, I especially hope I can have less splash.
"I just followed the routine which my coach told me to do. I never changed it. There's no real competition between the athletes so I have no strategy, I just want to do my best."
Zakharov, who finished runner-up behind He at last year's Shanghai world championships, zoomed to second overall with a spectacular forward four and a half somersault which scored a competition high 100.70.
Zakharov, who took silver in the 3m synchronised springboard with Evgeny Kuznetsov behind China on Wednesday, separated the two Chinese divers after Qin had been lying second into the final dive of the semi-final.
"The first three dives I did worse than yesterday and the last three I did better than yesterday," Zakharov said. "I just need to put all in one for tonight."
Qin, who won the 3m synchronised springboard gold with Luo Yutong earlier in the meet, recovered from an out-of-sorts qualifying session, where he finished 11th, to work his way back with two great closing dives.
He got 91.20 for a forward four and a half somersault followed by 84.15 for his final reverse two and a half somersault with one and half twists.
"I was upset because I slipped during the preliminaries so I only wanted to make it into the final," Qin said."The only thing I prepared was to control my mood."
Ninth-ranked Mexican Yahel Castillo led for three of the six rounds before finishing fourth with 499.65 ahead of American Troy Dumais, a bronze medallist in the synchro springboard and a four-time world silver medallist, who tallied 490.55.
German Patrick Hausding was sixth into the final with 485.55, Ukraine's Illya Kvasha seventh with 478.60 and Canada's Alexandre Despatie, a two-time Olympic silver medallist, in eighth spot with 472.80.
The home crowd roared their delight when British diver Chris Mears finished strongly with 91.20 from his closing forward four and a half somersault to qualify ninth into the final with 461.00.