There is an essential contradiction in judged sports between brute force and elegance.
Diving, with its balletic elements, is resolutely a finesse sport - but never let it be said its practitioners aren’t tough guys.
Canada’s Alex Despatie showed how just how tough on Wednesday, when in the final round he and three-metre synchro partner Reuben Ross pulled out the same dive on which Despatie nearly ended his Olympic career in Madrid six weeks ago when his head thwacked off the springboard.
The fact that he and Ross didn’t have the dive list or the synchronization to reach the podium, like they did at a World Cup event in London this past winter, will be particularly crushing to Ross, whose Olympic are now over.
It’s a cruel outcome for the man from Regina, who was robbed of precious practice time because of Despatie’s head injury, and because of a balky knee that kept him sidelined for more than half of 2011.
But despite a disappointing sixth-place finish in the synchro, Despatie has a several positives to point to as he prepares for the individual competition next week.
The men’s synchro springboard competition features six dives - two of which are compulsory elements.
The pair’s first dive - a forward somersault - went perfectly.
After that followed a simple reverse pike on which the pair lost their synchronization at entry, dropping from third to sixth, but only 1.20 points out of second.
The third dive was a back 2.5-somersault, which saw Ross over-rotate for the entry, pushing them to eighth.
Fourth time around, the Canadians went with a forward 2.5 somersault with two twists - though the execution was good the synchronization wasn’t, so they couldn’t make up ground despite miscues from the Russian and Mexicans who were ahead in the standings.
With their fifth dive, they launched into a reverse 2.5 somersault with one-and-a-half twists, which was good enough to move them into sixth.
The final dive will have been tense for Despatie - it was the dreaded inward 3.5-somersault.
He nailed it.