High winds at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center made for an interesting preliminary in the men's individual 3m springboard as 18 of the 29 competitors booked their berth in Tuesday morning's semifinal.
China's Cao Yuan, who earned bronze in the synchronized 3m event last Wednesday, took first place with 498.70 points, ahead of both Mexico's Rommel Pacheco, who finished second with 488.25 points, and USA's Kristian Ipsen, who finished third with 461.35 points.
Consistency in the wind was key as Cao, Pacheco and Ipsen were the only three competitors to score more than 70 points on all six attempts.
"I train outside at Stanford, so it’s pretty normal for it to get pretty windy and I definitely feel like it helped me today," Ipsen said. "It was tough. It definitely wasn’t easy. I was surprised at how strong the wind was blowing. It definitely made things exciting, but I think diving outside all the time ever since I was young definitely helped. I was honestly just focused on trying to stay consistent and not missing anything."
Ipsen, who won bronze in the synchronized 3m in London with Troy Dumais, scored no worse than 71.75 and scored as high as 84.00 on his final dive -- a reverse 1.5 free with 3.5 twists.
"I feel good. I’m super excited," Ipsen said. "I tried to go into today and enjoy every single part of it. I’m going to be done probably after these Olympics, so I just want to soak up as much as possible."
USA's Michael Hixon, who scored silver in the synchronized 3m alongside partner Sam Dorman last Wednesday, will move on to the semifinal after totaling 421.60 points for a 10th-place finish. Hixon topped out with an 85.75 dive on his third attempt, a reverse 1.5 free with 3.5 twists just like Ipsen's, but was held back a bit by a poor entry on his next dive, a 47.25 reverse 3.5 tuck.
"The goal was to be top 18 to get in the semis," Hixon said. "The wind was crazy and was a huge factor. You really can’t prepare for this, unless you get 20 industrial fans. For us, it’s about mental toughness. Some of the divers who were doing easier lists were doing really well in this event because it was easier for them to complete their dives. When the reigning Olympic champion is 18th, you know the conditions are bad."
London's gold medalist in the men's 3m springboard, Ilya Zakharov of Russia, got out to a terrible start with back-to-back low scores, but he was able to claw his way back into 18th place as the final qualifier with a shockingly low 389.90 points.
Zakharov nicked the board with his right foot on his first dive while attempting a difficult inward 3.5-somersault tuck and was left with a disappointing score of 42.50. Then, attempting a back 3.5-somersault tuck on his second dive, he churned up a large splash and scored a 50.40.
China's He Chao, however, failed to qualify. He, one of the favorites to win gold in the event, suffered a two-point balking penalty on his third dive and managed just a 27.75. He was eliminated from the competition with a 380.35-point, 21st-place finish.
It was a nervy final dive for Brazilian Cesar Castro. With one final qualifying slot remaining, Monday's last diver threw down a clean inward 2.5 pike for 72.00 points, which vaulted him into 14th place, much to the delight of the hometown crowd. His inclusion in the semifinal ended the 2016 Olympics for Great Britain's Freddie Woodward, who was pushed to 19th -- one spot shy of qualifying.
Illya Kvasha's head came dangerously close to the board on his third-round reverse 3.5 tuck and he was issued a penalty by three of the seven judges. But the Ukrainian finish 15th with 398.20 points and will be in the semifinal on Tuesday.
Malaysia's Ahmad Amsyar Azman miscalculated his final attempt and belly flopped for a 9.75; he finished in last place with 341.70 points.
The following competitors qualified for the men's individual 3m springboard semifinal on Tuesday: Cao Yuan (CHN), Rommel Pacheco (MEX), Kristian Ipsen (USA), Evgeny Kuznetsov (RUS), Sebastian Morales (COL), Patrick Hausding (GER), Jack Laugher (GBR), Rodrigo Diego (MEX), Stephan Feck (GER), Mike Hixon (USA), Yona Knight-Wisdom (JAM), Philippe Gagne (CAN), Oliver Dingley (IRL), Cesar Castro (BRA), Illya Kvasha (UKR), Grant Nel (AUS), Michele Benedetti (ITA), Ilya Zakharov (RUS).
The following competiros were eliminated from contention: Freddie Woodward (GBR), Ken Terauchi (JPN), He Chao (CHN), Sho Sakai (JPN), Matthieu Rosset (FRA), Woo Haram (KOR), Youssef Selim (EGY), Kevin Chavez Banda (AUS), Constantin Blaha (AUT), Andrea Chiarabini (ITA), Ahmad Amsyar Azman (MAS).
Michael Hixon's list
1. Back 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 67.50
2. Forward 2.5 pike 2 twists -- 3.4 -- 76.50
3. Reverse 1.5 free 3.5 twists -- 3.5 -- 85.75
4. Reverse 3.5 tuck -- 3.5 -- 47.25
5. Forward 3.5 tuck -- 3.8 -- 81.70
6. Inward 3.5 tuck -- 3.4 -- 62.90
Total score: 421.60
Kristian Ipsen's list
1. Back 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 72.00
2. Inward 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 76.50
3. Forward 3.5 pike -- 3.1 -- 80.60
4. Forward 2.5 pike 2 twists -- 3.4 -- 76.50
5. Reverse 3.5 tuck -- 3.5 -- 71.75
6. Reverse 1.5 free 3.5 twists -- 3.5 -- 84.00
Total score: 461.35