Olympic Games: Diving: Fu leaps into the limelight

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The Independent Online
THE spectacle of the first day was to be found on a diving board high in the hills overlooking Barcelona, where the 13- year-old Fu Mingxia, from China, turned in a display matching the dramatic setting.

Fu, a world champion at 12, was a class apart in the preliminaries of the women's platform diving and goes into today's final with a huge lead of 32 points over Mary Ellen Clark of the United States.

The highlight of a masterly exhibition came on her fifth dive, a back three and a half somersault. It was the most difficult dive anyone tried day and she spotted it perfectly to earn the day's highest score - 78.21pts. She then earned the day's second best score of 76.80 with her final dive.

Fu, the daughter of two factory workers in Hubei province in central China, first started diving at the age of seven and under China's intensive training programme would not now expect to see her parents more than a dozen times a year.

Clark, at 29 more than twice as old as Fu, did her best to keep in touch, but she was let down by her sixth dive, a reverse one and a half somersault with two and a half twists which earned her just 59.64 for a total of 329.85. It is faintly remarkable though that she is there at all, as she used to suffer from vertigo.

Britain's Hayley Allen made the most of her 17th birthday by qualifying for the final. She was in fifth place going into the last round of dives, a score of 48.720 pushed her back to eighth. Lesley Ward, the other Briton in the event, did not reach the final, finishing 25th of the 28 competitors.