The gap between Greg Louganis and China's Xiong Ni couldn't have been wider - or narrower.

Louganis, the brawny American veteran at 28, beat Xiong, a skinny Chinese 14-year-old, by only 1.14 pointsto become the first man to sweep the diving gold medals in consecutive Olympics.

"I never anticipated diving against someone half my age," Louganis said after Tuesday's victory. "I was always the youngster."

Louganis is 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, a singer, dancer and actor since age 3, a product of Western culture.

Xiong is 5-4, 103 pounds, a shy teen-ager from an Oriental culture.

And with one round left in the Olympic platform competition, the past and future of diving were locked in a tense struggle.

Louganis trailed Xiong by exactly three points - 554.91 to 551.91.

Xiong, the 11th of 12 divers, went first - an inward 31/2 somersault. Xiong hit it well, drawing 8.5s and 9s from the judges, giving him 82.56 points and a total of 637.47.

"I knew I was trailing going into the last dive," Louganis said. "I knew I had a 3.4 degree of difficulty and he had a 3.2, so I had a slight advantage."

Tougher dives receive higher scores than easier dives done equally well, and that was just enough as Louganis was awarded an 8, a 9 and 8.5s for the hardest dive in the sport, a reverse 31/2 somersault.

He got 86.70 points and a total of 638.61, just 1.14 more than Xiong, for the gold.

Jesus Mena of Mexico won a close competition for the bronze medal with 594.39 points, followed by Georgi Shogovadze of the Soviet Union with 585.96 and Jan Hempel of East Germany with 583.77.

Louganis, who won the springboard medal last week in a dramatic comeback after banging his head on the board, also won a silver medal on the platform in 1976.

In that competition, a 16-year-old Louganis lost to Italy's Klaus DiBiasi, the only diver besides Louganis with five Olympic diving medals.