Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent

(MONTREAL) – Day 3 at the FINA Diving World Series in Montreal was riveting because the difference between gold and silver came down to the last dive in the last two events.

The women’s 3m, the first final of the night, was perhaps the least-suspenseful, but few people knew that Shi Tingmao’s back had flared up in the semifinals, so even though she beat her teammate Wang Han for gold, it hadn't been a sure bet.  Jennifer Abel of Canada took bronze with a performance that included the hardest dive in the world on women’s springboard right now.

In the men’s 10m final, the ultimate question was whether Yang Jian’s difficult piked 4½ somersaults would beat Qiu Bo’s tucked (thus easier) version of the same dive in the last round.  It didn’t and Qiu won.

In the mixed 3m synchro, Abel returned with Francois Imbeau-Dulac to beat Great Britain’s Thomas Daley and Grace Reid with the difficult dive that had just relegated Abel to bronze-medal position in the women’s 3m event an hour earlier.  

Read on to find out how the events unfolded – and why Daley only competed in one event in Montreal.

Jennifer Abel earns 3m bronze (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Women’s 3m final

The women’s 3m springboard podium in Montreal matched the 2017 world championship podium exactly.

Three-time world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Shi Tingmao of China won the gold. Wang Han earned the silver, 5.85 points behind Shi. Jennifer Abel of Canada claimed the bronze.

But Shi had a subpar semifinal performance earlier in the day, so gold wasn’t a given. Shi told FINA.org that her back pain returned while she warming up for the semis. (She has been struggling with a herniated disc.) After receiving treatment before the evening’s final, Shi was able to lead the competition from start to finish.

Wang was in second place after each of the five rounds, but her fourth dive was a textbook 107B (forward 3 ½ somersaults) that received the highest score of the competition: 80.60 points. “I’m quite happy with that dive,” Wang said afterwards, even if she wasn’t exactly sure how she was able to nail it.  “Right place, right time,” she said.  

In contrast, Jennifer Abel’s highly-anticipated fourth dive wasn’t enough to elevate her out of third-place. It is the hardest dive in world right now for woman on springboard, called a “double out” (a forward 2½ somersaults and two twists in a pike position) with a 3.4 degree of difficulty.

Since it has such a high DD, Abel said, “When I do that dive, I’m not allowed to miss. [Today] I missed my takeoff.”

Abel had to shrug it off quickly because she was competing with Imbeau-Dulac in the mixed 3m synchro event where the “double out” dive would prove to be pivotal.

Qiu Bo of China wins 10m (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Men’s 10m final

Tension built throughout the men’s 10m platform final and the last dive was all-or-nothing for Yang Jian, last year’s world championship silver medalist.

After trailing three-time world champion Qiu Bo by a .10 point through the second, third and fourth dives, Yang pulled ahead of his teammate in the fifth round with a 207B – a dive that Qiu also performed in the penultimate round.
 
So gold all came down to the last Chinese dives: 109B versus a 109C. Both had the same elements (a forward takeoff with 4 ½ somersaults), but Qiu’s did his in a tuck (which is easier), while Yang’s was all piked and had a 4.1 degree of difficulty, the most in the whole competition.

Qiu went first and nailed the tucked version for 101.75 points (with a 3.7 DD).

Yang dove last and, unfortunately, the killer pike turned out to be his worst-scoring dive of the night, so he took silver.  Afterwards, Yang said, “I had a little problem with it in training. That dive requires more from my body. I didn’t train very systematically recently.”  

Yang, 23, had been using that dive in competition since 2013. What makes it hard, he said, is that his extended leg position requires more time to whip it around.

Qiu, 25, said that he also used to do the tougher 109C in competition, between 2012 and 2014, but stopped because “as I get older, it’s a bit too much for me.”

"I was quite relaxed tonight so I’m satisfied,” said Qiu.

Aleksandr Bondar of Russia placed third, 37.00 points behind Qiu.

Tom Daley of Great Britain, the 2017 world champion, did not compete in the individual event because he was struggling with what he called “stress responses in both shins.” The trouble began on April 14, the day after he won gold in the 10m synchro event at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

“It’s painful every time I walk, run, and jump because the stress goes through the bone,” he told FINA.org last Thursday. “Bouncing doesn’t hurt as much. It’s more the running takeoffs I do that are the most painful.”

As a result, the 23-year-old triple Olympian has been wearing a knee-high walking boot on his left leg to between training sessions. He has also cut the number of running takeoffs he does in training to 30 percent of his normal volume. “It’s not ideal,” he said, “but I have to train smart between now and Tokyo [2020 Olympics].”  

Then, last Friday, he sprained three ribs in practice but still entered the mixed 3m synchro with Grace Reid, with whom he had earned a silver medal at the 2017 world championships. “If today was yesterday,” Daley said, "I wouldn’t be diving."

Abel and Imbeau-Dulac win 3m mixed (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada

Mixed 3m synchro

In the mixed 3m synchro event, Daley and Reid held the lead for the first three dives.

Abel and Imbeau-Dulac pulled ahead on the fourth, but the Canadians only had a 3.96-point lead over the Brits with one dive to go.

Ultimately, Canada's final dive, the “double out” - the one that had plagued Abel in the women’s 3m event earlier – made all the difference. It scored 83.64 points – more than any other dive in the contest.

Daley called it “a make-or-break dive and they did it the best I’ve ever seen.”

So the host nation won gold, Great Britain took silver, and Germany’s Tina Punzel and Lou Massenberg captured the bronze.

The next stop of the 2018 FINA Diving World Series will be the final in Kazan, Russia, May 4-6.

RESULTS DAY 3:

Women’s 3m final:  1. Shi Tingmao (CHN) 381.95, 2. Wang Han (CHN) 376.10, 3. Jennifer Abel (CAN) 364.80, 4. Pamela Ware (CAN) 351.75, 5. Grace Reid (GBR) 330.75, 6. Katherine Torrance (GBR) 285.25.

Men’s 10m final: 1. Qiu Bo (CHN) 568.15, 2. Yang Jian (CHN) 551.40, 3. Aleksandr Bondar (RUS) 531.15, 4. Nikita Shleikher (RUS) 475.85, 5. Vincent Riendeau (CAN) 426.25, 6. Benjamin Auffret (FRA) 411.85.

Mixed 3m synchro: 1. Jennifer Abel and Francois Imbeau-Dulac (CAN) 325.20, 2. Thomas Daley and Grace Reid (GBR) 300.84, 3. Tina Punzel and Lou Massenberg (GER) 300.15, 4. Nadezhda Bazhina and Nikita Shleikher (RUS) 299.40, 5. Elena Bertocchi and Maicol Verzotto (ITA) 290.82.

Thomas Daley earns silver with Grace Reid despite injuries (c) Antoine Saito/Diving Canada