National diving star started in local team

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily) Updated: 2022-09-07

After a series of stunning, difficult actions, Chinese diver Li Yajie grabbed 69.00 points, the highest of the women's 1m springboard final in the fifth round, helping the 19-year-old woman win a gold at the FINA World Championships on June 29 in Budapest, Hungary.

Li's victory marked a record-extending seventh world title for the Chinese diving team in this event. This was the 101st gold medal that the Chinese diving team has won in all the FINA World Championships competitions. Li was also the first female world diving champion from Shanxi province.

Li was 7.30 points behind Canada's Mia Vallee after a poor third dive, but managed to deliver two flawless dives in the fourth and fifth rounds to win gold with 300.85 points in total.

"I was a little nervous in the preliminaries this morning since it was my first appearance at the world championships," Li said.

"But my experienced teammates helped me a lot as they taught me how to relax in the competition," she said.

Li was born to a family of athletes in Yanggao county in the northern Shanxi city of Datong. Her father was a gymnast and her mother a judoka. Inheriting athleticism from her parents, Li began her training as a diver at the age of 7 when she joined the Shanxi diving team while studying at a primary school in the provincial capital of Taiyuan.

Versatile in both springboard and platform, Li won her first national gold during the National Youth Games held in Shanxi in 2019 as the champion of the mixed 3m synchro springboard. She then began to focus on 1m and 3m springboards at the age of 16.

Li rose to fame during the 2021 National Diving Championships. She won gold with 318.35, a record for Chinese female athletes in the 1m springboard. She was then qualified for the national team.

Wei Fuchun, a Shanxi provincial sports official, praised Li's performance over the past year.

"Li is an excellent athlete with good physical and psychological strength, which help her finish difficult moves in diving," Wei said. "She has been in the national team for less than a year and now she is one of the shining stars."

Zhou Huifang contributed to this story.

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