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Wilkinson overcomes injury to win GOLD
Reuters Sept. 24 2000

Wilkinson overcomes injury to win gold

Laura Wilkinson fulfilled an Olympic dream she thought had been shattered by injury when she won the women's platform diving on Sunday.

Laura Wilkinsson, USA
Yves Herman / Reuters

Beating the Chinese favourites, she won the title for the United States for the first time since 1964.

The 22-year-old Texan broke her right foot in three places while training in March and spent weeks in casts and walking on crutches.

"The day I broke my foot I thought my dreams were over, just to make the team," Wilkinson said after her stunning victory. "I thought everything was lost at that moment but God moves in mysterious ways."

Wilkinson, the 1998 Goodwill Games champion, was more than 20 points behind Chinese pair Li Na and Sang Xue in eighth place after the morning's four-dive semifinal and going into the five-dive final.

But, as her rivals faltered, she seized the lead from Asian Games and World Cup champion Li with her third dive and held her nerve to take the gold in an extremely close three-way contest.

Chinese diver Li Na shows off her silver medal
Yves Herman / Reuters

Canada's Anne Montminy, the 1994 Commonwealth champion, was just 0.24 points behind going into the final round, with Li a further five points adrift.

Montminy could not match Wilkinson's final effort but Li pulled out a fine last dive, scoring higher than the American for the fifth round, though not quite enough to deny her the gold.

Wilkinson won with 543.75 points. Li took the silver with 542.01 and Montminy, on 540.15, claimed Canada's first-ever Olympic highboard medal.

China had won the three preceding Olympic women's highboard titles, with Fu Mingxia completing a platform and three-metre springboard double at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Fu, who was also highboard champion at the 1992 Barcelona Games, is competing only on the three-metre springboard in Sydney.

The last U.S. Olympic highboard champion was Lesley Bush at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

Medalists in the women's ten metre platform final
Yves Herman / Reuters

Fateful third round

Wilkinson, fifth after the second to final round, pulled off a great third dive - a reverse 2-= somersaults with tuck, worth 75.33 points. That was over 20 points more than Li's third effort and nearly 30 points more than Sang's, as the Chinese both failed in that fateful round and the medal hopes of Canada's Emilie Heymans were wrecked by a botched dive.Wilkinson also nailed her perilous fourth dive, an inward 2-= somersaults with pike.

"The fourth dive is a trouble dive, so it took a little something extra from God and He was there for me today," said the American, who said she recited a verse from the Bible - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" - before each dive.

Of the fourth dive, she said: "It's the same action as when I broke my foot... It's close to the tower (platform). It was worth risking tonight."

The injury had healed and was no longer a problem, she said.

Wilkinson said a close friend of hers had died in a car crash three years ago and her coach had motivated her before the problematic fourth dive by telling her "to do it for Hilary".

"I know we had a lot of trials and tribulations to get here," she said. She had known this might be "a once in a lifetime chance" and it had paid off, with family and friends in the crowd to support her.

"It was just a blast. I love to dive. That's the best thing about it," she said.

Derek Parr