Derek Parr, FINA Media Committee member

China hoisted their title tally at the 17th FINA World Championships to five of the seven diving finals contested in the last three days in Budapest’s Duna Arena, with Olympic champions Shi Tingmao and Chen Aisen maintaining their winning runs on the global stage.

Shi Tingmao scooped her third successive women’s world 3m synchro gold and Chen Aisen his second men’s world 10m synchro gold, each with new partners following their triumphs at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Shi and Chang Yani, Shi’s new partner following the retirement of perennial champion Wu Minxia, led from start to finish to win the 3m synchro title from Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini Beaulieu of Canada and Nadezhda Bazhina and Kristina Ilinykh of Russia.

Chen, with Yang Hao alongside him in place of his world and Olympic title-winning partner Lin Yue, claimed his second 10m synchro world gold, the pair uncorking a spectacular 10 perfect 10 scores in their six final dives to win by almost 40 whole points.

Russia’s Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev claimed the silver and seasoned German pair Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein, the 2013 world champions, bowed out with the bronze.

China’s three earlier wins in the Duna Arena came from Ren Qian and Lian Junjie in the mixed 10m synchro, Peng Jianfeng in the men’s 1m and Ren Qian – again – and Si Yajie in the women’s 10m synchro. 

The golds which have so far escaped them came in the women’s 1m (Australia’s Maddison Keeney) and the men’s 3m synchro (Russia’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov). China won 10 out of 13 at the last World Championships in Kazan.

The men

Men’s 10m synchro

Chen Aisen and Yang Hao bagged China’s fifth title of the Budapest Worlds with a masterly display in the men’s 10m synchro, winning by a vast margin and bombarding the scoreboard with 10 perfect 10s in the six-dive final.

Chen, the Olympic 10m champion, and Yang amassed a grand total of 498.48 points which their rivals could not match despite fine performances of their own. Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev claimed silver for Russia on 458.85 and German former world champions Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein a well-deserved bronze on 440.82 on their farewell appearance together.

Klein, who turns 32 in September, will now retire, though 28-year-old Hausding will continue. The two Germans scored a memorable victory in the 10m synchro at the 2013 Worlds in Barcelona, claiming the only diving title to escape China.

Chen, 21, and 19-year-old Yang could, in contrast, have many years of diving glory still to come. Chen won synchro platform gold at the 2015 Kazan World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics with Lin Yue but his new partnership with Yang has already been well established with four wins out of four in the 2017 World Series, each time with Hausding and Klein in second place.

Olympic bronze medallists Tom Daley and Daniel Goodfellow of Great Britain, second behind Chen and Yang in the preliminary round, were in medal contention until an ill-fated back 3-1/2 somersaults in the fifth round effectively spelled the end of their hopes.

The British pair pulled out a big last dive to move up from fifth to fourth but still fell some 23 points short of bronze.

Newly crowned European champions Maksym Dolgov and Oleksandr Gorshkovozov of Ukraine finished fifth, while US Olympic silver medallist Steele Johnson and new 10m partner Brandon Loschiavo had to settle for sixth in the absence of 2012 Olympic 10m champion David Boudia, who has taken a break from diving to consider his future.

Women's 3m springboard

China maintained their winning ways at the FINA World Championships as Shi Tingmao scooped her third consecutive women’s 3m synchro world gold, partnering Chang Yani to victory over Canadian and Russian pairs to hoist China’s title tally in Budapest to four out of six contested.

The Chinese pair led through all five rounds of the final, as they had in the preliminary round earlier in the day, but they were pursued all the way by Canadians Jennifer Abel, who collected her fourth 3m synchro medal in a row, and Melissa Citrini Beaulieu.

Shi and Chang (CHN), gold 

Shi and Chang compiled 333.30 points from their five dives to win from Abel and Citrini Beaulieu (323.43) and Russian duo Nadezhda Bazhina and Kristina Ilinykh (312.60). It was Bazhina’s second medal in the Duna Arena, following her silver in the 1m final on Day 2 behind Maddison Keeney of Australia, when China were shut out of the medals.

For Abel it was the third silver and fourth overall 3m synchro medal in the last four world championships, the 25-year-old Canadian having pocketed silver in 2011, bronze in 2013 and silver in 2015, the last two with Pamela Ware. She also won Olympic 3m synchro bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.

Abel and Citrini Beaulieu (CAN), silver

Behind the Chinese-Canadian duel, the Russians won the battle for bronze as Bazhina and Ilinikh held third place from the second round onwards to deny Australian Olympic bronze medallists Keeney and Annabelle Smith, who finished fourth this time on 301.23.

Bazhina and Ilinykh (RUS), bronze

After Keeney’s triumph in the 1m final, the other title to elude the Chinese, also on Day 2, was the men’s 3m synchro which was prised from the grasp of Cao Yuan and Xie Siyi by Russian European champions Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov.

But China have bounced back. Shi, the reigning Olympic and defending world individual champion on the 3m board, won the Olympic 3m synchro crown and her first two synchro world titles with Wu Minxia, who herself boasted a record seven world and two Olympic golds in the event before her retirement after the 2016 Rio Games.

Shi and Chang made it nine world championship 3m synchro titles in a row for China. The only time China did not win the event at the Worlds was in 1998, the first occasion it was held, when Irina Lashko and Yuliya Pakhalina won it for Russia.

QUOTES

Women's 3m synchro

Chang Yani/Shi Tingmao (CHN), gold

“Of course I am very happy to defend my title in this event, and I was able to reach it with a new partner. I really wanted to see Chang Yani at the age of 15 as a world champion. I tried to help her, because I saw her being stressed, but fortunately we put up a good performance.”

Jennifer Abel/Melissa Citrini Beaulieu (CAN), silver

“I am really happy for the silver medal and I am pretty satisfied with our achievement since it is our first year as a team. We tried to do our best, with the limit of training it was only enough for the second place, but we would like to stay together as a team in the future also. If we can manage that, we still have the chance to progress and earn additional medals for sure.”

Nadezhda Bazhina/Kristina Ilinykh (RUS), bronze

“This bronze means a gold for us. I am as happy as I was after the 1m final when I claimed silver. I hoped that hard work we had put into this pair would be rewarded. It is absolutely fantastic to clinch two medals at the world championships."

Men’s 10m synchro

Chen Aisen/Yang Hao (CHN), gold

“We are glad to win with this new duet. We won all four events in the FINA Diving World Series this season, we hoped to make consistent performance at the world championships also. There were strong pairs, so we should be delighted with this result.”

 
Aleksandr Bondar/Viktor Minibaev (RUS), silver 

“We have been working together for half a year, so it is a great result for us. I think there is a big potential in our team, so the future will be even better."

 
Patrick Hausding/Sascha Klein (GER), bronze

“I wanted to obtain a medal in any case, since that happened I couldn’t be happier. This competition was my last one so I couldn’t have imagined a better finish than this. It means a lot to me, that my wife and son could see me compete and stand on the podium before I retire.”