Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix shared an emotional poolside video call with her father, the reality TV personality Fred Sirieix, after finishing seventh in an extraordinary Olympic 10m platform final that saw an unknown 14-year-old Chinese diver twice deliver perfection.
Sirieix had been tweeting the duck emoji in proud social media postings about his 16-year daughter, who revealed that the French star of First Dates and Million Pound Menu calls her ‘Mon Canard’ (my duck).
“He calls it to me as a nickname - I don’t know where it came from - but it stuck,” said Spendolini-Sirieix.
With no friends and family permitted in Tokyo 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, the organisers have created optional ‘family moments’ which allow competitors to speak live with their nearest and dearest immediately after they have completed an event. For Spendolini-Sirieix, that meant seeing her father and mother within seconds of her fifth dive, which was her best of the competition.
“They said that they were very proud and that I should be proud, that they miss me and I said that I miss them - it just went back and forth and I started crying,” she said.
“I’ve definitely exceeded my expectations. It gives me confidence for Paris. Hopefully Covid has gone because I want my family to come and watch. I am very, very excited.”
Sirieix regularly shows support for his daughter on social media and even attempted his own diving lessons at the London Aquatics Centre a month ago. "You are living your dream," Sirieix, 49, posted before the final, telling his daughter that, "We are all with you". As well as tears, there had earlier been gasps inside the Tokyo Aquatics Centre at the performance of Quan Hongchan who, in her first international competition, delivered two dives that scored perfect a ‘10’ from all seven judges.
Quan produced the dives in round two and four en route to a gold medal winning performance of a quality and dominance that has been rarely seen in any sport throughout the Games. She also became the second youngest Olympic champion at these Games. Her 15-year-old compatriot, Chen Yuxi, who is the reigning world champion and was a gold medallist earlier this week in the 10m platform syncro, also finished comfortably ahead of the rest of the world in silver. Quan is China’s youngest athlete in Tokyo.
“When we were warming up and we were waiting to be called out, she was dancing, she was laughing and it looked like she had no nerves,” said Spendolini-Sirieix. “She’s a new diver - she’s incredible.”
Spendolini-Sirieix’s team-mate, Lois Toulson, finished ninth and was similarly amazed. “She makes diving look very easy - and it’s not,” she said. “It’s usually a fight for the bronze because the Chinese are first and second. They take it incredibly seriously and it starts from a very early age.
“They literally live at the pool, eat, breathe and sleep diving. It’s quite different to the rest of the world but it’s incredible they can go out and do things like that. I’m just in awe.”