The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics by a year had been a drawback for some athletes. But for Chinese diver Quan Hongchan, the delay worked in her favor.
That’s because she turned 14 just four months ago, qualifying her for the minimum age requirement for Olympic diving.
And on Thursday, she became China’s newest diving sensation after winning gold in the women’s 10-meter dive.
Quan is the youngest athlete among China’s delegates in the Olympics. She sealed her country’s 33rd gold medal in Tokyo, delivering three perfect-10 dives and achieving a record-breaking total score of 466.20.
During her performance, an NBC broadcaster exclaimed: “Remember this! You may never see anything like it again.”
Born on March 28, 2007, in Zhenjiang, Guangdong, Quan became the second-youngest Chinese gold medalist in diving. She comes behind Fu Mingxia, who won the 10m platform gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games when she was 13.
It has only been less than a year since Quan joined the Chinese national team. Still, she had already shot into instant fame in China after beating other diving champions in the Olympic trials as she punched her ticket to Tokyo.
Speaking to the press, Quan said she remained calm throughout the competition.
“It seems there is no difference between the Olympics and national competitions. My coach told me to relax and don’t be nervous before the Games,” she said.
Quan chose to learn diving when she was seven years old, attending the Zhanjiang Sports School. Every day, she would train for three to four hours and practice 400 dives.
The reason she got into the sport is simple—she didn’t enjoy classes, and her grades were poor. Quan thought she could just dive as a substitute for attending school, saying that “it feels good to dive.”
Her sleek dives on Thursday proved that practice really makes perfect. Quan barely caused a ripple on the water’s surface during her five dives, leaving spectators in awe. Some even said that dumplings make bigger splashes. She’s that good.
Quan also gave thanks to her parents, who also told her not to be nervous.
“They said it doesn’t matter if I get a medal or not. Just be myself. Those words really helped me,” the young athlete said.
Quan comes from a simple, rural family. She has four siblings. Both of her parents are farmers, but her mother figured in a car accident in 2017, where she broke her ribs. She has been hospitalized multiple times ever since, and the family had to spend all their savings on her treatments.
The diver told local media that she wants to help out with her mother’s medical bills.
“My mum is ill. I don’t know what illness she has got. I just want to make money to get her medical treatment because my family needs a lot of money to cure her illness,” she said.
After Quan’s stunning Olympic performance, a cosmetics company said it will fund her mom’s treatment.
To celebrate her achievements, Quan is looking forward to eating spicy stick Latiao—a popular local snack in China made of wheat flour and chili. Her mom previously told Chinese state-run outlet Xinhua that her daughter’s biggest wish is to open a tuck shop so she can eat many snacks.
Like many other teenagers in China, Quan loves playing the country’s popular online game, Honor of Kings, during her free time. But when it comes to that, being young is an obstacle. There is an age limit, so the champion can only play two games, which isn’t enough for her.
China has long dominated women’s diving events, winning every gold since 2008. And it seems like it can expect a lot more gold medals and broken records from its new diving superstar before she retires from the sport and sets up her dream tuck shop.
Congratulations, Quan! See her perfect dives in the video below.
A PERFECT DIVE‼️
14-year-old Quan Hongchan from China receives 10s across the board on her dive in the women’s 10m platform final. #TokyoOlympics
📺 USA Network
📱 NBC Sports App pic.twitter.com/PiozFgJy7u
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 5, 2021
See more of her diving greatness on NBC.