08/07/2012 01:45 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Powerful China leaves room for Russia to take men's 3-meter springboard gold

LONDON - China is more than halfway toward a sweep of the diving gold medals at the London Olympics and suddenly looking vulnerable.

For the first time since diving began, the Chinese didn't lead a round. Ilya Zakharov of Russia topped the standings going into the men's 3-meter springboard semifinals on Tuesday.

Zakharov led 18 divers into the semifinals with 507.65 points. He dived consistently during the six-round preliminaries on Monday, when two divers received all zeros after failing their dives and there were plenty of mistakes.

"There's a lot of young divers here trying to do more than they're supposed to do," American Chris Colwill said. "Accidents happen."

Defending Olympic champion He Chong of China was second at 500.90. The top 12 after the semifinals advance to the evening final. Troy Dumais of the U.S. was third at 486.60 after rallying from sixth on Monday.

Zakharov earlier won a silver medal in synchronized 3-meter with partner Evgeny Kuznetsov, and was the silver medallist in the individual event at last year's world championships.

"I'm really satisfied with my diving, but the first thing is to do a good job in the semifinal," said Zakharov, who needs to be first after the semifinals in order to achieve his goal of going last in the final.

Evgeny Kuznetsov of Russia failed on his third dive and dropped from eighth to 20th, although he advanced in 16th.

"I didn't step correctly onto the board or open up my body fully," he said. "I've always performed this dive well, so I don't really know what went wrong."

China made a rare mistake, too.

Qin Kai, who led after four rounds, dropped to 11th when he missed on his toughest dive — a forward 4 1/2 somersaults tuck worth a 3.8 degree of difficulty. He narrowly avoided doing a belly flop and ended up 11th with 451.60.

"At least I got to the semifinals," he said. "Hopefully I will perform better."

Qin already has a gold medal in London, winning the 3-meter synchro with partner Luo Yutong. That was one of the five golds won so far by the Chinese, who are attempting to sweep the eight diving events, just as they nearly did four years ago in Beijing. They won seven of eight in their own country, losing the men's 10-meter platform.

Dumais has never finished higher than sixth in 3-meter at three previous Olympics. He finally earned his first Olympic medal in springboard synchro with partner Kristian Ipsen.

"If I do the dives that I'm capable of doing, the ones I do every day back home, yes, I can be in the hunt," Dumais said. "I've beaten these guys before. I can beat them again."

Colwill was seventh. He finished last in the springboard final in Beijing. Colwill has a 60 per cent hearing loss, although he said it can be an advantage while competing.

The preliminaries were full of drama because of the mistakes.

Stephan Feck of Germany dropped out of the competition after the third round. He lost his grip on his right leg doing a forward 3 1/2 somersault pike and landed on his back, smacking the water as the crowd gasped. He received all zeros and withdrew after doing his third dive, with officials saying he felt faint.

Jack Laugher of Britain hushed the home crowd when he missed his last dive. He appeared to slip off the edge of the springboard after launching into his jump. Realizing he had lost it, the 17-year-old diver entered the pool feet first, then angrily splashed the water before getting out and leaving the deck visibly upset. He earned all zeros and finished 27th.

Two South Americans also made big mistakes.

Cesar Castro of Brazil took an extra bounce on his fifth dive and then botched it, but he still qualified for the semifinals in 14th.

Edickson Contreras of Venezuela scored 4.95 on his last dive. He bounced once on the board, turned and walked back. He tried again and landed with his legs smacking the water. He was 28th.