Quan Hongchan jumps from hopscotch to Asiad diving top podium

(Xinhua) 09:37, October 05, 2023

Chinese diver Quan Hongchan competes in the final of the women's 10m platform at the Hangzhou Asian Games on Oct. 3, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

From playing hopscotch to Asiad diving top podium, Chinese teenage star Quan Hongchan keeps on chasing her dream with firm belief.

HANGZHOU, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- When teenage diver Quan Hongchan ascended from the 10m platform into the air, the scene might transport those close to her back to a sweltering summer day nine years ago.

It was a school day when the young girl from the countryside played hopscotch with her classmates on the playground in Zhanjiang, south China's Guangdong Province, and a coach noticed her. Chen Huaming, a former diver and coach from Zhanjiang City Sports School, found her dexterous and observed that she could jump higher and longer.

"He taught me diving at school in Zhanjiang," Quan recalled. "I had never tried any other sports before, but I enjoyed playing in the water. Jumping from the platform into the water ahead of other kids without hesitation was a good start for me."

Quan Hongchan celebrates winning the title of the Asiad women's 10m platform on Oct. 3, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

The coach's judgment was accurate. In the women's 10m platform final of the Hangzhou Asian Games on Tuesday evening, the 16-year-old diver secured the gold medal with an outstanding performance, particularly with her nearly flawless second dive, earning full marks from all seven judges.

The competition wasn't without tension. Quan led in the first three dives, at one point with a margin as big as 20-plus points, before being surpassed by her teammate and three-time world champion Chen Yuxi. However, she managed to remain composed and secure the victory.

As another Chinese diver revealed privately, Quan is actually a lively girl. Like most girls her age, she loves snacks, amusement parks, and grabbing dolls with doll-grasp machines. Her favorite is a blue one given by her elder brother, the color of a swimming pool, which she places on her bed. The squashy toy is a quiet companion that helps her ease pressure.

But unlike her peers, she needs to work extremely hard on her training, with the initial intention of improving her family's living standard and helping her mom cure illness. Quan's home is located in the Maihe Village of Zhanjiang, a small village with fewer than 2,000 people. Her parents have five children to feed with meager income from the orchard. In 2017, her mom was disabled in a traffic accident.

Growing up in such harsh conditions, the girl was brave and hardworking. Before entering the sports school, she couldn't even swim. However, she was the first among all the new entrants to step on the 3m springboard and the 10m platform. Was she afraid? "I didn't think that much," Quan replied. "I just closed my eyes and jumped."

She soon fell in love with diving. "I cried a few times," she admitted. "But I love the sport so much that I always encouraged myself to keep on trying. I want to win, like the elder brothers and sister."

Quan Hongchan competes in the final of the Asiad women's 10m platform on Oct. 3, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

China has never been short of elite divers. The "elder sister" Quan mentioned is Guo Jingjing, who collected four Olympic gold medals in her career, while the "elder brothers" are world champions Chen Aisen and Xie Siyi.

Quan rose to fame at the Tokyo Olympic Games after winning the gold medal in the women's 10m platform with a new mark of 466.20 points. As the youngest athlete in China's delegation to Tokyo, Quan became the second-youngest Chinese gold medalist in the event in Olympic history.

She soon gained lots of fans. In Tuesday's match, Hu Jiajia waved a banner with Quan's name on it at the spectators' stand. "I love the contrast of her composure in the competitions and her simplicity outside the arena," Hu said. "She is so true, which is very precious nowadays and at her age."

In the national team, she also wins the love of her teammates. Her archrival Chen, one year older than her, is like a big sister.

Quan surely has a long way ahead. For now, maybe her next goal is the Paris Olympics in 2024. "My dad told me to stay true to my dream," Quan said. "My dream is to be the champion."

(Web editor: Zhang Wenjie, Hongyu)


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