Zakharov leads pratfall-filled prelims

While so many divers were flopping around him, Ilya Zakharov of Russia stayed steady on the 3-meter springboard.

The Russian topped the men’s preliminaries at the Olympics on Monday with 507.65 points during the six rounds of a competition marred by pratfalls.

Zakharov earlier won a silver medal in synchronized 3-meter with partner Evgeny Kuznetsov, and was the silver medalist in the individual event at last year’s world championships.

”I’m really satisfied with my diving, but the first thing is to do a good job in the semifinal,” said Zakharov, who wants to be able to dive last in the final so he would need to lead after the semifinals.

Kuznetsov failed on his third dive and dropped from eighth to 20th, although he advanced in 16th.

”I didn’t step correctly onto the board or open up my body fully,” he said. ”I’ve always performed this dive well, so I don’t really know what went wrong.”

He Chong of China, who was ninth after his first dive, totaled 500.90 while opening the defense of his Olympic title. The top 18 divers moved on to the semifinals on Tuesday, with the top 12 making the final that evening.

Troy Dumais of the U.S. was third at 486.60 after rallying from sixth in the fourth round.

Two divers scored all zeros, while two others got low scores for badly botching their dives. Even China made a rare mistake.

Qin Kai, who was leading after four rounds, dropped to 11th when he missed on his toughest dive: a forward 4 1/2 somersaults tuck worth a 3.8 degree of difficulty. He narrowly avoided doing a belly flop and ended up 11th with 451.60.

”At least I got to the semifinals,” he said. ”Hopefully I will perform better.”

Qin already has a gold medal in London, winning the 3-meter synchro with partner Luo Yutong. That was one of the five golds won so far by the Chinese, who are attempting to sweep the eight diving events, just as they nearly did four years ago in Beijing. They won seven of eight, losing the men’s 10-meter platform.

Dumais has never finished higher than sixth in 3-meter at three previous Olympics. He finally earned his first Olympic medal in springboard synchro with partner Kristian Ipsen.

Dumais tuned out the miscues going on around him.

”I stay in my own world. I don’t let the competition affect how I know I can dive,” he said. ”If I do the dives that I’m capable of doing, the ones I do every day back home, yes, I can be in the hunt. I’ve beaten these guys before. I can beat them again.”

Chris Colwill, the other American, was seventh. He finished last in the springboard final in Beijing. Colwill has a 60 percent hearing loss, although he said it can be an advantage while competing.

”There’s a lot of young divers here trying to do more than they’re supposed to do,” he said. ”Accidents happen.”

Stephan Feck of Germany dropped out of the competition after the third round. He lost his grip on his right leg doing a forward 3 1/2 somersault pike and landed on his back, smacking the water as the crowd gasped. He received all zeros from the judges. Feck went ahead and did his third dive and then withdrew, with officials saying he felt faint.

His teammate Patrick Hausding, who was fourth, was surprised when Feck flopped in his first Olympics.

”It was really hard for him because it was his only event here,” Hausding said. ”It is something he won’t want to remember. He will just have to get over it.”

Jack Laugher of Britain hushed the home crowd when he missed his last dive. He appeared to slip off the edge of the springboard after launching into his jump. Realizing he had lost it, Laugher entered the pool feet first, then angrily splashed the water before getting out and leaving the deck. He earned all zeros and finished 27th.

The crowd roared when the other British diver, Chris Mears, grabbed the last spot for the semifinals.

”It’s the Olympic Games,” Mears said. ”Those five rings mean a lot to people, and that can make or break them.”

Two South Americans also made big mistakes.

Edickson Contreras of Venezuela scored 4.95 for his last dive, a reverse 2 1/2 somersault with 1 1/2 twists pike. He bounced once on the board, turned and walked back. He tried again and landed with his legs smacking the water. Contreras got out, and crouched against the wall with his back toward the pool. He was 28th.

Cesar Castro of Brazil took an extra bounce on his fifth dive and then botched it, earning marks of 3.0 or less. He qualified for the semifinals in 14th.