China divers hunt for Olympic gold

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Wu is an overwhelming favourite to successfully lead off China's quest

China will be looking for more Olympic gold in the pool Sunday as Wu Minxia, pictured earlier this year, launches their bid for all eight diving gold medals, with her attempt at a third straight synchronised three-metre springboard Olympic crown

China will be looking for more Olympic gold in the pool Sunday as Wu Minxia launches their bid for all eight diving gold medals, with her attempt at a third straight synchronised three-metre springboard Olympic crown.

After a pulsating start in the pool Saturday when Ryan Lochte sunk record-chasing Michael Phelps while China's Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen wrote their name in the record books, Wu can leave the London Games as the most successful Olympian in the sport along with the retired Guo Jingjing.

To make the mark the 26-year-old diva diver needs to win both her springboard events and so add to her current tally of four medals.

Wu, who will team with He Zi, won the last two synchronised gold medals with Guo in Athens and Beijing and is an overwhelming favourite to successfully lead off China's quest to unite every Olympic and world diving gold medal.

World champion Qiu Bo, likened to a "robot" by his British rival Tom Daley, is expected to further enhance his glowing reputation in London.

The 19-year-old Qiu, who won two gold medals at last year's world championships, will partner Lin Yue in the men's 10m synchronised platform and take on the challenges of Daley and Australia's Matthew Mitcham in the individual platform.

British poster boy Daley, who relinquished his world title to Qiu last year, clings to the hope the Chinese superstar will crack under pressure, pointing out that he has beaten him four times in competition.

"Pressure sometimes gets to him. You have to be able to dive as well as him to put pressure on him. Because if you don't put pressure on him he's not going to buckle. So it's tough," Daley said.

Defending champion He Hong faces a challenge from Canada's two-time Olympic silver medallist Alexandre Despatie in the springboard event, while Qin Kai and Luo Yutong are the world champions in the synchronized springboard.

Chen Ruolin will defend her Olympic title in the 10m platform, and team up with Wang Hao in a bid to retain platform synchro gold.

Sunday's second full day of action sees 14 gold medals up for grabs, with highlights including American swimmer Missy Franklin, competing in seven events in London, beginning her individual programme.

In other highlights Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, one of the world's most decorated women cyclists, will go into the women's 140 km road race as the hot favourite on Sunday and ready to put past world and Olympic disappointment behind her.

"It will be a tough race but I do not think I can be satisfied with silver or bronze," said Vos.

"Am I stronger than ever? Yes, I think I can say that."

Lizzie Armitstead is the hosts' big gold hope if the race finishes in a group sprint, while defending champion Cooke gives Britain another option.

"Most people are going to be watching Marianne Vos, she's going to be heavily marked and that will be an advantage for us," said Armitstead.

Vos is not Britain's only obstacle to possibly claiming gold a day after Mark Cavendish's bid to give Britain a golden start to the Games.

Giorgia Bronzini has won the past two world championships thanks to winning sprints, and her Italian team-mate Tatiana Guderzo won the 2009 edition.

"She's shown that she can win in the big moments, she's a two-time world champion and she's ready for this, I'm sure," American sprint specialist Shelley Olds told AFP.

Germans Judith Arndt and Ina Teutenberg are, along with Vos, Cooke and the Italians, the most experienced racers in the women's peloton.

But Olds believes the Italians' long love affair with the sport -- and their ability to race as a cohesive unit -- could give them the edge.

Elsewhere five-time world champions, Slovakian twins Peter and Pavol Hochschorner will be bidding for another Olympic gold showing when the canoe slalom gets underway.

The Hochschorners became the first slalom canoeists to win three Olympic gold medals four years ago, and the pair are focused on going even better in London.

But the twins will be up against Czech pair Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek, who have claimed two Olympic medals, one world championship title and three European championship titles, but remain in their Slovak rivals' shadow in terms of topping the Olympic podium.

Also Sunday triple Olympic champion Ben Ainslie will lead home hopes in the sport of sailing in which Great Britain leads the all-time medals table with 50, including 25 golds.

Ainslie and his fellow mariners will have the particular attention of International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, who represented Belgium in the event in three Games.

On Saturday Lochte's 400m individual medley showdown with Phelps turned out to be a no-contest as he dominated to win in 4min 05.18sec, ahead of Brazilian Thiago Pereira and Japan's Kosuke Hagino, with Phelps back in fourth.

"It was just a crappy race," Phelps said. "I felt fine the first 200 and then I couldn't really go the last 100."

Phelps has another six events to go. But Lochte was not the only star of the first full day of action as Sun became China's first ever male Olympic champion in the pool, with a commanding swim in the 400m freestyle.

Sun's clash with champion Park Tae-Hwan was also much anticipated, but it almost didn't happen after the South Korean was disqualified from his heat for a false start, before being reinstated after an 11th-hour appeal.

But the stand-out swim of the pool's opening night belonged to Ye, 16, who shattered the 400m medley world record with 4:28.43 -- more than a second faster than defending champion Stephanie Rice's time from Beijing 2008.

Australia won their first gold in the women's 4x100m relay, with Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger beating out the Netherlands and teen star Missy Franklin's American team.

Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov shocked hosts Britain in the men's road race while Chinese world number one shooter Yi Siling had the honour of claiming the first of the Games' 302 golds at the Royal Artillery Barracks in the women's 10m Air Rifle.

Russia's Arsen Galstyan won the men's under-60kg judo and Sarah Menezes took Brazil's first Olympic gold in the sport, in the women's under-48kg.

But the story of the under-48kg was Hungary's Eva Csernoviczki, who bounced back from being strangled unconscious in the quarter-finals to claim an unlikely bronze.

In the men's cycling, Britain's Tour de France heroes Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were undone by a combination of tactical racing and some incisive, late attacks, finishing well off the podium.

South Korea enjoyed a golden start when sharpshooter Jin Jong-Oh won the Olympic men's 10m air pistol gold medal.

And New Zealand's Hamish Bond and Eric Murray set the third world record of the Games, in the men's pairs rowing.

Saturday also witnessed the first failed drugs test of the Games after Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku was suspended for taking the banned steroid stanozolol.