Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent

(MONTREAL) – China snared three gold medals and Malaysia claimed one during a full day of synchronized diving at the FINA World Series in Montreal, Canada. Friday’s contests marked Day 1 of the third leg of the series - the only one held inside a 20th century Olympic venue.

The day began with an upset.

China had come to Montreal having won every single event of the 2018 FINA Diving World Series – 20 golds in all. But the 21st gold medal went to Malaysia’s Pandelela Pamg and Jun Hoong Cheong in the women's 10m synchro.

Pamg and Cheong (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Women's 10m synchro

The competition was so close that the top three finishers were separated by less than two points. North Korea’s Kim Mi Rae and Kim Kuk Hyang placed second, just .84 points behind the Malaysian winners, Pamg and Cheong.  China’s Si Yajie, 19, and Lin Shan, 16, placed third and, remarkably, never led the competition.

Afterwards, Pamg and Cheong were elated.

“Since 2010, this is my first gold at the Diving World Series,” said Pamg, 25, “I feel very grateful.” The pair from Kuala Lumpur had taken bronze at last year’s world championships. What makes their partnership shine, Pamg said, is that “we trust each other.”

Runners-up Kim Mi Rae and Kim Kuk Hyang felt they had more to give on Friday. “We tried our best, but second place is a little disappointing.” Kim and Kim were the 2017 world championships silver medalists.

China’s Si and Lin only teamed up one week ago. (Ren Qian, Si’s gold-medal synchro partner from the 2017 world championships, was taking a break.) Despite their lack of training time, both Si and Lin said they were expecting to win. Whether they will stay together remains to be seen. “It is not up to us,” Si said.

Kim and Kim (PRK) silver (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Men’s 10m synchro

China’s Qui Bo and Yang Jian dominated the men’s 10-meter synchro event after the first two rounds where each dive was limited to a 2.0 degree of difficulty. In their last four dives, Qui and Yang precisely executed the hardest dives per round and won by a massive 46.83 points over runners-up Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev of Russia, and 51.45 points ahead of the Purdue University teammates who placed third for the U.S.: Brandon Loschiavo and Steele Johnson (who was diving with a stress fracture in his right foot).

Qiu downplayed Friday’s victory, saying that he and Yang had temporarily teamed up for the Montreal diving World Series and weren’t in peak condition because they had only trained for a short time.

For Russia, Minibaev said the turning point came in their botched fifth dive, a 207B (back 3½ somersaults) which earned only 59.40 points and briefly dropped it to third, behind China and the U.S. “We haven’t been good with it since the new year,” Minibaev said. “It’s been up and down. We still have time to work on it before Kazan so we can win with it,” referring to the FINA Diving World Series final in their home country, May 4-6.

Qiu and Yang (CHN) win (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Women’s 3m synchro

In the women’s 3m synchro, host nation Canada gave China quite a contest – but in the end, China won its second gold medal of the day, 8.67 points ahead of Canada, and 17.70 points ahead of Australia’s Esther Qin and Anabelle Smith who were diving together for just the second time. (Smith’s bronze-medal Olympic partner from Rio, Maddison Keeney, scratched from Montreal to heal a bad case of shin splints.)

After the third dive, Canada’s Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini Beaulieu were leading Shi Tingmao and Yani Chang by .90 points.

With two dives remaining, Shi said she wasn’t aware of the score but then again, she wasn’t surprised. “Team Canada on 3m synchro always does well, and we took it into consideration,” Shi said.

On the fourth dive, Citrini Beaulieu of Canada admitted to making a mistake, a 107B (forward 3 ½ somersaults) and knew she had to finish strong to support Abel. Since they began diving together, in November 2016, Citrini Beaulieu changed her entire technique to match Abel – from the timing and number of steps in her front approach, to the rhythm of her back takeoffs. Abel said that unlike her previous partners, “we are really physically the same.” Canada finished with a solid inward 2½ and seemed pleased with silver.

Chang and Shi (CHN) win 3m (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Men’s 3m synchro

In the men’s 3m synchro event, China’s Cao Yuan and Xie Siyi led from start to finish to claim China’s third gold medal in Montreal. Russia’s 2017 world champions, Evgenii Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov, placed second.  Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon of the U.S. came from behind in their final dive (109C, a forward 4 ½) to place third.

3m synchro podium (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

RESULTS DAY 1:

Women’s 10m synchro: 1. Pandelela Pamg and Jun Hoong Cheong (MAS) 322.74 points, 2. Kim Mi Rae and Kim Kuk Hyang (PRK) 321.90, 3. Si Yajie and Lin Shan (CHN) 320.82, 4. Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay (CAN) 293.70, 5. Jessica Parratto and Tarrin Gilliland (USA) 279.84, 6. Melissa Wu and Teju Williamson (AUS) 271.74.

Men’s 10m synchro: 1. Qiu Bo and Yang Jian (CHN) 472.11, 2. Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev (RUS) 425.28, 3. Steele Johnson and Brandon Loschiavo (USA) 420.66, 4. Maksym Dolgov and Oleksandr Gorshkovozov (UKR) 398.82, 5. Timo Barthel and Florian Fandler (GER) 378.63.

Women’s 3m synchro: 1. Chang Yani and Shi Tingmao (CHN) 313.50, 2. Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini Beaulieu (CAN) 304.83, 3. Esther Qin and Anabelle Smith (AUS) 295.80, 4. Nadezhda Bazhina and Kristina Ilinykh (RUS) 292.80, 5. Grace Reid and Katherine Torrance (GBR) 283.08, 6. Mun Yee Leong and Nur Dhabitah Binti Sabri (MAS) 256.20.

Men’s 3m synchro: 1. Cao Yuan and Xie Siyi (CHN) 463.38, 2. Evgenii Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov (RUS) 425.10, 3. Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon (USA) 410.13, 4. Philippe Gagne and Francois Imbeau-Dulac (CAN) 409.86, 5. Oleksandr Gorshkovozov and Oleg Kolodiy (UKR) 375.36.