Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent in the US

(MONTREAL) – The third stop of the FINA Diving World Series begins on Friday in Montreal, Canada, where athletes from 14 countries will vie for medals at 1976 Olympic diving venue. In fact, the renovated pool sits inside the base of the iconic white tower that leans at a 45-degree angle over the French-speaking city.

Athletes will also try to earn valuable ranking points en route to the fourth and final stop of the World Series in Kazan, Russia, in early May.

Over the next three days, the world’s best divers will contest 10 events: four of them individual (men’s and women’s 3m, men’s and women’s 10m) and six of them synchronized – including two extremely difficult mixed synchro events, in which a man and a woman must match dives.

The hardest part of the mixed event, according to Jennifer Abel of Canada, a two-time world championship medalist in the mixed 3m, is that “I can’t miss my takeoff.” When two women dive together, Abel said, they can usually make up slight differences in their hurdle height. “But a man, because he’s stronger,” she said, “will already cut [his] down to be in synch, so if a girl misses her takeoff, the synchronization will be horrible.”

Across all 10 disciplines, however, the major question will be: Can anyone beat China? Its athletes swept all 10 gold medals at each of the last two stops of the World Series (in Beijing, China; and Fuji, Japan) in March.

China’s 26-year-old team captain, Shi Tingmao, will be especially formidable. Already this year, Shi won the women’s individual springboard events at the first two legs of the World Series.

And last year, Shi won all four legs of the FINA World Series in both women’s 3m individual and 3m synchro – plus double gold at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary. Shi also competed at the quadrennial Chinese National Games where she earned a career-best score of 409.20 points. Yet she still called 2017 the “first-ever low-ebb season in my diving career. I had no perfect competitions at all.”

On the men’s side, one diver who could snap China’s reign is Thomas Daley of Great Britain. Daley won gold at the 2017 world championships on the 10-meter platform (eight years after winning the same world championship event at age 15). Last May, Daley married Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and Daley says that happiness helps his diving. He and Black are also expecting their first child – a boy – in June.

The current World Series points leader in the men’s 10m event, Zhang Jiaqi, and the runner-up, Ren Qian, both of China, are not scheduled to compete. That means third-ranked Benjamin Auffret of France has a chance to overtake them in the standings with a victory. Auffret is another prodigy. He placed fourth at the Rio Olympics.

SCHEDULE of FINALS:

Friday, April 27:            women’s and men’s 10m synchro, women’s and men’s 3m synchro
Saturday, April 28:        women’s 10m, men’s 3m, mixed synchro 10m  
Sunday, April 29:          women’s 3m, men’s 10m, mixed synchro 3m