Diving: China's latest diving sensation Zhang Jiaqi wins women's 10m platform at Fina Grand Prix

China's Zhang Jiaqi, 13, in the women's 10m platform at the Fina Diving Grand Prix Singapore on Nov 4, 2017 at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. She won with 400.75 points.
China's Zhang Jiaqi, 13, in the women's 10m platform at the Fina Diving Grand Prix Singapore on Nov 4, 2017 at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. She won with 400.75 points.PHOTO: SINGAPORE SWIMMING ASSOCIATION
Women's 10m platform medallists (from left) North Korea's Kim Mi Hwa (silver), winner Zhang Jiaqi of China, and North Korea's Kim Kwang Hui (bronze) at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Nov 4, 2017.
Women's 10m platform medallists (from left) North Korea's Kim Mi Hwa (silver), winner Zhang Jiaqi of China, and North Korea's Kim Kwang Hui (bronze) at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Nov 4, 2017.PHOTO: SINGAPORE SWIMMING ASSOCIATION

It has been almost a year since China's most successful diver Wu Minxia called time on her career last December, but the vaunted Chinese pipeline may have already found a worthy successor to the five-time Olympic champion.

Zhang Jiaqi, only 13, has been making waves this year despite joining the national diving squad just six months ago.

Making her national debut at China's National Games in September, Jiaqi won the women's 10m synchronised title before upsetting reigning Olympic champion Ren Qian in the 10m platform for the gold medal.

She proved too good for her 10m platform rivals on the second day of the Fina Diving Grand Prix's Singapore leg yesterday, scoring 400.75 points from six dives at the OCBC Aquatic Centre to finish more than 50 points ahead of North Korea's Kim Mi Hwa (348.70).

Jiaqi rated her performance as just "so-so" despite scoring a superb 94.05 points on her third dive.

"There were a few movements I could have made better adjustments for," she said in Mandarin.

"I think I did a little better in Malaysia (last month)."

She was referring to the Malaysian leg of the Fina Diving Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur, where the Beijing native outclassed Malaysia's double Olympic medallist Pandelela Rinong by a 77-point margin to win the 10m platform title. It was Jiaqi's first international competition, prompting Pandelela to call her a "future superstar".

Jiaqi took up diving at the age of seven, although it was more accidental than by choice.

"My mother said I was too naughty and active so she wanted me to pick up a sport," said the 1.45m youngster.

Even then, gymnastics was her parents' first choice, but they had to look for an alternative outlet for their daughter's energy after Jiaqi was rejected by her gymnastics coach for having short arms and small hands.

Gymnastics' loss was diving's gain as Jiaqi joined the national set-up this year coached by veteran trainer Ren Shaofen, whose past proteges include five-time Olympic gold medallist Chen Ruolin.

China's Peng Jianfeng, who won the men's 1m springboard title at July's world championships in Budapest, Hungary, said the sky's the limit for Jiaqi.

"Jiaqi's youth is an advantage because her diving motions have not become fixed yet," said Peng.

"So she can still work with her coaches to get rid of any bad habits and continue to develop."

Peng, 23, finished third (466.60) in a closely contested 3m springboard final yesterday, behind surprise winner Kim Yeong Nam of South Korea (474.70) and compatriot Liu Chengming (470.25).

Kim's win surprised even himself, as he was targeting only a podium finish.

"I didn't expect to win the gold medal because we all know how hard it is to beat the Chinese, so I'm really happy with my performance today," said Kim, whose last dive (89.25) was his best.

The 21-year-old is the top performer in Singapore so far, having also won the 10m synchronised platform yesterday and the mixed synchronised platform on Friday.

Singapore's Myra Lee (women's 10m platform) and Timothy Lee (men's 3m springboard) both did not make it out of their semi-finals in the morning.

Timothy will be in action again today - the last day of the competition - with twin brother Mark in the synchronised 3m springboard.