China duo win 3-meter synchro title
BARCELONA, Spain -- China's Wu Minxia and Shi Tingmao won the first diving gold medal at the world championships on Saturday, earning Wu a record sixth world title in the women's 3-meter synchronized springboard.
The pair's almost flawless execution of all five dives framed by the dramatic backdrop of Barcelona's skyline gave them the top total score of 338.40 points.
Italy's Tania Cagnotto and Francesca Dallape claimed silver with 307.80, while Canada's Pamela Ware and Jennifer Abel took bronze with 292.08.
Wu has dominated the 3-meter synchronized springboard for more than a decade, winning nine world or Olympic gold medals. The only major title to escape her was the 2005 world championship when she didn't compete in the event.
Ten years ago, Wu, then 17, won the world title here at the Municipal pool perched on the Montjuic hillside. This time she arrived with a brand new teammate in Shi, who was only named to China's team last year after being the first non-team member to win a gold medal in the 1-meter springboard at the 2011 world championships.
But their mirrored twists and turns gave the impression they had been working together for years.
"I'm really happy even though I do feel a bit old," Wu said through a translator. "I believe that since we kept working hard and communicating we succeeded. I feel like one of the leaders of the team, and I feel so good that we could do so well in our first competition."
Wu said the secret to her continued success was combining her experience with younger, hungry talent.
"I always need a new partner to come up because I am old," Wu said. "My partners need to have a high level before starting with me."
Cagnotto and Dallape, who just missed the podium in London last summer by finishing fourth, got a slim early lead on the Chinese in the first round when they both performed a forward pike.
But Wu and Shi went ahead with the next dive and effectively decided the title with an inward two-and-a-half somersault pike on their third effort. They poured it on by getting a finals-best 78.30 points with a reverse pike with two-and-a-half somersaults with a twist thrown in on their fourth try.
Maintaining an icy demeanor while diving, Shi was all smiles and acknowledged that she was still a little nervous even after the medal ceremony.
"Having Wu by my side helps me calm down and do well in the performance," Shi said. "If there is one thing I have learned from Wu it is her spirit and attitude during the competition."
Earlier, China's Li Shixin topped the preliminaries in the men's 1-meter springboard.
Li, the defending 1-meter springboard champion, led the men's qualification for Monday's final with 405 points, but a poor last dive let France's Matthieu Rosset finish only 0.5 points behind.
Li looked ready to end the preliminaries with a commanding points difference until he missed with a three-and-a-half somersault pike on the sixth and final dive and barely edged Rosset for the top spot.
Illya Kvasha of Ukraine was third in qualifying, followed by Alejandro Chavez of Mexico in fourth and Sebastian Morales of Colombia in fifth.
American Kristian Ipsen, a bronze medalist from the 2012 Olympics, failed to make the cut of the top 12 divers.