August 16, 1978 |
Wuhan, Hubei, People's Republic of China
|Alma mater||Tsinghua University|
|Spouse(s)||Anthony Leung (m.2002–present)|
Fu Mingxia (born August 16, 1978 in Wuhan, Hubei, China) is a top female diver, multiple Olympic gold medalist and world champion. Chinese diver Fu Mingxia won the platform-diving world championship in 1991 at the age of 12, making her the youngest diving champ of all time. She also holds the notoriety of being the youngest Olympic-diving champion, having earned a gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games when she was just 13. Throughout the 1990s, Fu dominated the sport with her stunning repertoire of picture-perfect, yet extremely difficult dives. During the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney, Australia, Fu won her fourth gold, joining Americans Pat McCormick and Greg Louganis as the world's only quadruple Olympic-diving champions. Fu's record speaks for itself - with four Olympic golds and one silver, she is clearly one of the best divers China has ever produced.
On the Beijing 2008 Olympic organizing committee website, Fu described diving as a one-second art. "It takes a diver only 1.7 seconds from the 10-meter-platform to the water surface down below. It requires you to fully display the beauty of the sport in only a second. It's very demanding, but I love the challenge."
Early life and career
Fu Mingxia (pronounced Foo Ming-shah) was born into a humble working-class family in the city of Wuhan, located along the Yangtze River in central China. Perhaps Fu's parents knew that she was a diamond in the rough when they named her Mingxia, which translates to "bright rays of tomorrow." Inspired by an older sister, Fu enrolled in gymnastics at a local sports school at the age of 5. From the beginning, it was clear Fu possessed natural athletic grace. Though she was just a child, Fu demonstrated remarkable poise and body control. The coaches, however, felt that she was not flexible enough to make it as a gymnast. Instead, they suggested she pursue diving, though Fu, only about seven years old at the time, could not swim.
Fu easily made the transition from gymnast to springboard diver and before long was noticed by diving coach Yu Fen, who took Fu to Beijing in 1989 to train at a state-sponsored boarding school as a member of the state diving team. China prides itself in churning out athletic prodigies who can win international competitions and bolster the country's reputation. In China, it is common practice for children with athletic promise to be taken away from home at an early age to live at special sports schools where their talents can be refined. Fu was chosen for such a life. Because of her remarkable talents, she became a part of China's disciplined, but highly successful sports machine.
Through a strenuous training program, Fu learned to set aside her fears and progressed quickly. Typical of Chinese children at sports schools, her days were highly structured and sheltered, containing little more than diving practice and schooling. Training sessions averaged four to five hours a day, seven days a week, with the occasional nine-hour day. At times, Fu practiced 100 dives a day. In time, she was gliding so close to the platform during her dives that her short hair often touched the end during her descent toward the water.
Fu was clearly on her way to becoming a world-class diver; however, there were drawbacks to the program. Once Fu went to Beijing, she pretty much lost contact with her parents. Fu was allowed visits home only twice a year. Her parents attended her diving competitions when they were close to her hometown of Wuhan. When Fu was competing near her home turf, she would scan the crowd in hopes of locating her parents. In time, however, they became almost unrecognizable. The only way Fu knew they had come to watch was because they would leave care packages for her in the locker room.
In 1990, Fu made her international diving debut, capturing a gold at the U.S. Open and also at the Goodwill Games, held that summer in Seattle. Her daring dives from the top of the 10-meter platform transformed the teeny 12-year-old into a national treasure. However, with pressure mounting, Fu placed third at the Asian Games held in Beijing in the fall of 1990. Following the loss, she changed her routine, adding moves that were technically more difficult, but which she felt more comfortable performing.
Adding the more difficult moves probably helped her score more points in the long run because the more difficult dives yield higher points. Here is how the scoring works in diving competitions: Judges evaluate dives on several components, including the approach, takeoff, elevation, execution and entry. Dives are rated on a scale of zero to ten. In major competitions, there are typically five to seven judges. After judges determine their ratings, the highest and lowest scores are tossed out. To get the final score, the remaining scores are added. This number is then multiplied by the dive's degree of difficulty, which ranges from 1.0 for an easy dive to 2.9 for the more difficult maneuvers.
By 1991, Fu was talented enough to attend the diving world championships, held in Perth, Australia. The competition was intense, and Fu found herself in eighth place in the final round because she had failed a compulsory dive. Fu pulled herself together, however, and ended up with the title, beating out the Soviet Union's World Cup winner Elena Miroshina by nearly 25 points. At just 12 years old, Fu became the youngest international champ ever. It is a title she will hold forever because after the competition, swimming's national governing body changed the rules, requiring all competitors of international competitions to be at least 14 years old.
While Fu initially made her mark on the 10-meter platform, she also began competing on the three-meter springboard. In April 1992, she won the gold on the springboard at the Chinese international diving tournament in Shanghai.
Fu made her Olympic debut at the 1992 Games, held in Barcelona, Spain. During the competition, the five-foot-half-inch, 94.8-pound Fu used her youthful fearlessness to beat out older, more elegant competitors. Fu easily captured a gold in the platform competition. At 13, she was the youngest medal winner at the Olympics that year-and the second-youngest in the history of the Games. She also qualified as the youngest Olympic diving champion, a title she still holds.
Fu's success in her first Olympics drove her toward her second. In preparing for the 1996 Olympics, held in Atlanta, Fu trained seven hours a day, six days a week. Her only other activities included listening to music, watching television and getting massages. Fu's coaches drilled her hard, but she said she found comfort and peace from the physically and mentally straining regimen through music. The hard work paid off. Fu was in top form at the 1996 Olympics and shined on both the platform and springboard, taking gold in both events. She was the first woman in 36 years to win both events in a single Olympics.
Awards and accomplishments
|Competitor for China|
|Gold||1992 Barcelona||10m Platform|
|Gold||1996 Atlanta||10m Platform|
|Gold||1996 Atlanta||3m Springboard|
|Gold||2000 Sydney||3m Springboard|
|Silver||2000 Sydney||Synchro Springboard|
|Gold||1991 Perth||10m Platform|
|Gold||1994 Rome||10m Platform|
|Gold||1990 Beijing||Team Event|
|Silver||1994 Hiroshima||3m Springboard|
|Bronze||1990 Beijing||10m Platform|
- 1990 Goodwill Games – 10m platform 1st (11 years old)
- 1991 Asian Games – 10m platform 3rd (12 years old)
- 1991 World Swimming Championships – 10m platform 1st (12 years old)
- 1992 Olympic Games – 10m platform 1st (14 years old)
- 1993 FINA Diving World Cup – 3m springboard 3rd (15 years old)
- 1994 World Swimming Championships – 10m platform 1st (16 years old)
- 1994 Asian Games – 3m springboard 2nd (16 years old)
- 1995 FINA Diving World Cup – 10m platform 2nd (17 years old)
- 1995 FINA Diving World Cup – 3m springboard 1st (17 years old)
- 1996 Olympic Games – 10m platform 1st (18 years old)
- 1996 Olympic Games – 3m springboard 1st (18 years old)
- 1999 University Games – 10m platform 1st (21 years old)
- 1999 University Games – 3m springboard 1st (21 years old)
- 2000 FINA Diving World Cup – 3m springboard 2nd (22 years old)
- 2000 Olympic Games – 3m springboard synchronized (with Guo Jingjing) 2nd (22 years old)
- 2000 Olympic Games – 3m springboard 1st (22 years old)
Retirement and comeback
Shortly after Atlanta, the triple-gold-medallist quit the sport and enrolled at Beijing's Tsinghua University to study management science. Fu also got involved in politics and in 1997 served as a delegate to the Communist Party's 15th Congress.
Fu spent about two years off the board. By 1998, however, Fu felt a tug toward returning to the sport and began diving with the university team, but her own terms. On her own terms still meant a disciplined training schedule, but she reduced the number of hours per day down to five. Fu found that practicing just for the sake of practicing to be a pointless endeavor.
As a member of the university team, Fu competed in the 1999 World University Games in Palma, Spain, winning both the highboard and springboard titles. Less than a year back into it, she won silver at the Diving World Cup. Fu regained her spot on the national Olympic squad and also took up a new sport - three-meter synchronized diving - as she headed for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Fu and her partner, Guo Jingjing, practiced together for less than six months, yet earned a silver. The Russian pair that beat them had trained together for years. After the synchronized diving event, Fu went on to compete on the springboard. She handily won a gold, nailing her final dive, a reverse one-and-a-half somersault, two-and-a-half twist for nines when eights would have been enough to beat out Guo, her teammate. With her four gold medals and one silver, Fu became one of the most decorated Olympic divers of all time.
Marriage and motherhood
Fu married Antony Leung, former Financial Secretary of Government of Hong Kong, on July 15, 2002 in Hawaii. Their marriage was not publicly revealed until July 30, 2002. They have a daughter (born February 26, 2003) and two sons (born December 12, 2004 and April 25, 2008).
Though Fu is no longer diving, she was a member of the Beijing Olympic bid committee for the 2008 Olympics. Beijing won the bid, and Fu was to serve as an ambassador at the event.
New York Times, May 4, 1992. South China Morning Post, March 6, 1993; March 24, 2002. Straits Times (Singapore), February 28, 2003. Washington Post, May 22, 1991.
- Original text from Famous Chinese Women, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.