Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent

(MONTREAL) – On Day 2 of the FINA Diving World Series in Montreal, China went 1-2 in both individual events and sat out the mixed 10m synchro (where Canada beat North Korea to win by 1.50 points).

China’s two gold medals came from two of its 2016 Olympic gold medalists: Ren Qian in the women’s 10m, and Cao Yuan in the men’s 3m.  

In the mixed 10m synchro, China’s absence allowed a new star to emerge. Nathan Zsombor-Murray of Canada not only helped his teammate Meaghan Benfeito become the night’s only double medalist, he also gave Canada its first gold medal of the event on his 15th birthday.

Ren Quian (CHN) wins 10m (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Women’s 10m final:

The women’s 10m final field was so deep that it included every medalist from the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 world championships.

But 17-year-old Ren Qian of China took the victory by using the same dives – in the same order – that she performed to win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In Montreal, Ren finished 18.20 points ahead of her teammate and good friend Si Yajie.

Even in triumph, however, Ren called her performance “average” and said she had to improve “everywhere” before the FINA Diving World Series final in Kazan, Russia, May 4-6.  

Si, the 19-year-old silver medalist, felt the gold medal slip away after her fourth dive, a 207C (back 3 ½ somersaults) which not only enabled Ren to widen her lead from 4.15 points to 18.20 points, but it also sealed her fate because Si and Ren received the same scores on their final dive. Si said the problem was the angle of her entry. “It was a little bit short, but the splash wasn’t bad.”  To prepare for Kazan, Si said she will “be focusing on details and controlling the splash.”

In third place was Canada's Meaghan Benfeito who quickly left the pool to start preparing for the mixed 10m synchro event.

Notably missing from the final was North Korea’s Kim Kuk Hyang who failed to advance out of the semifinals. Kim, the 2015 world champion in the 10m, missed the final cut by 16.25 points.

Cao Yuan (CHN) wins 3m (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Men’s 3m final:

The men’s 3m springboard final turned into another contest between China and China. In the end, 1.9 points separated the winner, Cao Yuan, from his teammate Xie Siyi. Russia’s Ilia Zakharov placed third.

Cao attributed the victory to his mental fortitude.

“On the board, I only think about the technique and the jump; nothing else,” Cao said. And unlike Ren, Cao has changed his dive list since the Rio Games, increasing its difficulty – particularly the fifth dive: a 5156B (forward 2 ½ somersaults with 3 twists) which carried a DD of 3.9. On Saturday, it earned Cao 91.65 points, but it was not the highest score of the night.

Both Xie and the fourth-place finisher, Evgenii Kuznetsov of Russia, earned a 96.90 for their final dive - a 109C (forward 4½ somersaults). In fact, five of the six finalists ended the competition with that same dive, which made for a striking comparison.  

Afterwards, Xie (the 2017 world champion) said of his silver medal score (529.30), “I’m not very satisfied because in practice in China, I get 550.” In China, practices are judged.

Given a chance to re-do the competition, Xie said, “I would improve my entry, especially on his second and fourth dives [both reverse] where I have to jump backwards.”  

Canada wins mixed 10m synchro (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Mixed 10m synchro

In the mixed 10m synchro event, Canada’s Benfeito and Zsombor-Murray improved steadily and overtook North Korea’s Kim Mi Hwa and Hyonn Il Myong on the fifth and final dive to claim the host nation’s first gold medal by 1.50 points.  

North Korea thus claimed its second silver in Montreal (matching its result from the women’s 10m synchro event on Day 1).

Hyon said, “We’re happy with the result. But we thought we won it after the fourth dive.”  

But Hyon and his partner since January had one dive left: a back 2½ somersault with 1½ twists – which  all five pairs chose for the closing round.  

Before Canada launched its final dive, Zsombor-Murray remembered what Benfeinto, 29, told him on the ascent between the 5- and 10-meter platform: relax and dive the way you know how. He did, and suddenly, Zsombor-Murray had his first senior international medal. Asked how he would celebrate in the final hours of his 15th birthday, he said, “Go home and have cake?”

RESULTS DAY 2:

Women’s 10m final: 1. Ren Qian (CHN) 395.85, 2. Si Yajie (CHN) 377.65, 3. Meaghan Benfeito (CAN) 354.65, 4. Pandelela Pamg (MAS) 343.15, 5. Kim Mi Rae (PRK) 399.90, 6. Cheong Jun Hoong (MAS) 298.70.

Men’s 3m final: 1. Cao Yuan (CHN) 531.20, 2. Xie Siyi (CHN) 529.30, 3. Ilia Zakharov (RUS) 505.05, 4. Evgenii Kuznetsov (RUS) 463.95, 5. Francois Imbeau-Dulac (CAN) 448.45, Philippe Gagne (CAN) 430.55.

Mixed 10m synchro: 1. Meaghan Benfeito and Nathan Zsombor-Murray (CAN) 322.08, 2. Kim Mi Hwa and Hyon Il Myong (PRK) 320.58, 3. Iuliia Timoshinina and Nikita Shleikher (RUS) 299.82, 4. Viviana del Angel Peniche and Kevin Berlin Reyes (MEX) 295.32, 5. Tina Punzel and Florian Fandler (GER) 290.22.