After heavy gusts of wind made for a challenging preliminary a day earlier, calm conditions conducted high scores Tuesday morning at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center in Rio as the top 12 divers advanced to the men's individual 3m springboard final on Tuesday evening.
China's Cao Yuan led the way, as he did in the preliminary, with 489.10 points. Mexico's Rommel Pacheco finished second, as he did in the preliminary, with 469.70 points. And Russia's Evgeny Kuznetsov finished third with 468.35 points.
USA's Mike Hixon placed fourth with a strong 467.25-point showing and teammate Kristian Ipsen posted a 437.70-point program to secure seventh place in the semis and a spot in the final.
Russia's Ilya Zakharov will not get a chance to defend the 3m gold medal he won in London in 2012. After two strong dives to open the semifinal, the reigning Olympic champion's knees buckled on a forward 2.5 pike with 2 twists. A vicous belly flop served him a "no dive," zero points, and an early elimination from the men's individual 3m springboard event. Zakharov barely made it out of the preliminary round after beginning his program by hitting the board, but he cobbled together enough points on his final three attempts to place 18th and grab the final qualifying spot.
Zakharov totaled a massive 555.90 points in his gold-medal program in London, but he managed just 345.60 points -- 210.30 fewer -- in the this year's semifinal for a last-place finish and a disappointing exit.
The Rio Olympics were nearly over for Great Britain's Jack Laugher. The man who won synchronized gold alongside partner Chris Mears last week was outside the top 12 going into the final dive, but the high-flying 21-year-old delivered in the final round to leapfrog Italy's Michele Benedetti and advance to the final.
Ireland's Oliver Dingley dug a large splash on his Round 2 inward 3.5 pike. But the 23-year-old appealed the dive after there appeared to be a loud scream during his takeoff. He was granted a redive and scored a 66.50, then closed a strong program for a ninth-place finish to advance.
Brazilian Cesar Castro executed a clean list to loud ovations from the local crowd and secured his spot in the final with 442.45 points and a sixth-place finish.
With both Zakharov, the reigning Olympic champion, and China's He Chao, the reigning World champion, out of the competition, Tuesday night's final is anyone's for the taking. The top 12 will be back at the diving well Tuesday evening for the men's individual 3m final beginning at 5pm ET.
The following competitors qualified for the men's individual 3m springboard semifinal on Tuesday: Cao Yuan (CHN), Rommel Pacheco (MEX), Evgeny Kuznetsov (RUS), Mike Hixon (USA), Philippe Gagne (CAN), Cesar Castro (BRA), Kristian Ipsen (USA), Illya Kvasha (UKR), Oliver Dingley (IRL), Patrick Hausding (GER), Sebastian Morales (COL), Jack Laugher (GBR).
The following competiros were eliminated from contention: Michele Benedetti (ITA), Yona Knight-Wisdom (JAM), Grant Nel (AUS), Rodrigo Diego (MEX), Stephan Feck (GER), Ilya Zakharov (RUS).
Michael Hixon's list
1. Back 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 78.00
2. Forward 2.5 pike 2 twists -- 3.4 -- 81.60
3. Reverse 1.5 free 3.5 twists -- 3.5 -- 84.00
4. Reverse 3.5 tuck -- 3.5 -- 54.25
5. Forward 4.5 tuck -- 3.8 -- 91.20
6. Inward 3.5 tuck -- 3.4 -- 78.20
Total score: 467.25
Kristian Ipsen's list
1. Back 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 72.00
2. Inward 2.5 pike -- 3.0 -- 72.00
3. Forward 3.5 pike -- 3.1 -- 77.50
4. Forward 2.5 pike 2 twists -- 3.4 -- 86.70
5. Reverse 3.5 tuck -- 3.5 -- 40.25
6. Reverse 1.5 free 3.5 twists -- 89.25
Total score: 437.70