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Celebrity Splash

By Zhu Chong (朱冲)
Issue 615, April 15, 2013
Lifestyle, page 55
Translated by Liu Jingyue
Original article: [Chinese]

China currently dominates the highly-skilled sport of competitive diving and the country's divers, much like it's ping pong and badminton players, are expected to bring home gold every time they compete in the Olympics or world championships.

However, until recently, the sport was seen to be dwindling in popularity.

Now, a reality TV show featuring B-list celebrities learning to dive, has put the spring back in the country's spring board.

On a recent Saturday night, Beijinger Wang Hongya (王宏雅) sat down to watch an episode of Stars in Danger (星跳水立方), a reality show jointly produced by Zhejiang Satellite TV (浙江卫视) and Jiangsu Satellite TV (江苏卫视). It's the first time that Wang's watched a diving competition quite like this.

"Compared to the professional athletes, it doesn't really matter how they dive," says Wang.

"What's important is when sexy Korean star Chae Yeon (蔡妍) and the model Cica Chou (周韦彤) appear wearing a low-cut bikini on that springboard."

Wang explained that he never really got into diving before, "the Chinese always win, there's hardly any suspense. Besides the Chinese divers all look so serious."  

Diving Stares Off The Edge

Competitive diving is facing a difficult time in China, and members of the Chinese diving team are well aware of the challenges. For years they have been promoting the sport, but in vain.

Wu Mingxia (吴敏霞), one of China's best known female divers and a triple Olympic gold medal winner, admits that the task is tough.

"I've been trying to promote the sport, but it's not easy. Diving is all about skill and beauty," Wu told the EO.

"However, there have been some subtle changes in the attitude of members of the national diving team in relation to making the sport more market friendly. For years, one of the heads of the team has been trying to add new elements into the sport, such as performance diving that incorporate humor ... but to tell you the truth, it's still hard."

What the Punters Want

Sha Yifeng (沙一峰), a sports marketing professional noted that the sports backers don't seem to know how to combine diving with entertainment. When an ordinary person watches a diving competition they just want to see the fine figures and courage of those well-known divers and get a laugh or two when they make mistakes.

The new TV show seems to back up Sha's statement. Audiences like to see people make mistakes and they also admire the courage of the participants.

Viewers loved it when the 66-year-old cross talk star Niu Qun (牛群) jumped from a five meter platform and almost landed on his back in the water. Similarly, audiences were also drawn in when singer Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍) injured her waist while hitting the water in the wrong posture, or when Super Junior member Han Geng (韩庚) passed out during one of the rehearsals.

Show Spurs New Interest in Diving

One week after the show went to air, Beijing's Water Cube, the venue for the 2008 Summer Olympics swimming and diving events, got more than 100 phone calls from people interested in taking diving courses.  

While some are worried that diving might be dangerous, Yu Fen (于芬), the former coach of Chinese diving team says that with improving training skills and protection measures, the risk of getting injured while diving have been minimized.   

Ms. Yu also said that most big cities in China have diving facilities that are open to the public. From her experience, Yu says that although many people are afraid of heights, they're still attracted by the thrill of it. That's how diving became popular in the first place.


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