China added three diving gold medals on Wednesday to go 6-for-6 while Great Britain claimed two bronzes on last-ditch efforts by multi-tasking athletes.
BUDAPEST (Hungary) – Wednesday marked a day of dominance (for China) and adjustment (for Great Britain) in a triple-header featuring the mixed team event, the women’s 1-meter final, and the mixed 3-meter synchro disciplines.
China took all the gold to remain undefeated after six events, with seven remaining.
One diver for Great Britain, however, could have been in all three finals, as well as the morning’s 1-meter prelims. After a successful qualifier in which Grace Reid made the cut for Wednesday’s only individual final, she ceded her mixed team spot to a teammate. She watched them come from behind on their last dive to capture bronze. Reid then placed sixth in the 1-meter event and returned minutes later to contest the mixed 3m synchro event (with the man who had earlier taken team bronze). After faltering badly at the beginning of the contest, the duo came out of the back of the pack to take bronze. Whew.
Here’s how it all unfolded.
In the mixed team event, China claimed its fifth gold medal in five events – thanks to a pair of 15-year-olds: the women’s Olympic 3-meter champion Quan Hongchuan and her partner Bai Yuming who scored 391.40. It was also China’s 100th gold medal in world championship history. “It’s a great success for us and the whole Chinese team,” Quan said.
Jade Gillet and Alexis Jandard captured the silver medal for France with a score of 385.50. We have dreamt about this result,” said Jandard. “We believed in our work. We are so happy.”
The great surprise was Great Britain capturing the bronze medal after being in eighth place entering the final set of dives. James Heatly was the last of the British pair to perform. His final dive carried a 3.8 degree of difficulty, and his 79.80 score on his 109C (a forward 4½ somersaults), was exactly what the Brits needed to vault ahead of Malaysia, Germany, the U.S., Brazil, and South Korea.
Originally, Heatly had been scheduled to dive with Grace Reid but, earlier in the day, Reid qualified for the women’s 1-meter final which was scheduled to begin about an hour after the team event so 17-year-old Andrea Spendolini Sirieix stepped in.
Asked how long had they been diving together, Heatly said, “How long ago did the event start?”
Unlike the synchro events, athletes in the team event dive independently of each other. A “team” is defined as one man and one woman from the same country. The team makes six dives in all – three on 3m, three on 10m. The man and woman can go in any order, but each must dive off each board at least once. Scores of the six dives are added. The highest total wins. Wednesday marked the fourth edition of the event at worlds.
Women’s 1m Final
The women’s 1-meter final was up next. Li Yajie kept China’s winning streak alive in Budapest – but it was a three-way battle and it wasn’t a lock until Li’s last two dives.
Mia Vallee of Canada was leading after three rounds, but she had just thrown her two hardest dives. Li was lurking 7.3 points behind, and Sarah Bacon of the U.S. trailed by 15.8 points.
Li’s fourth dive, a 305C (reverse 2½), scored 69 points – the highest of the entire competition – putting her into first place. As the last diver in the field, Li just needed 38.2 points on her final effort to overtake Bacon, the 2019 world championship silver medalist.
No problem. Li scored 300.85 points in all, and China suddenly had its 101st gold medal in world championship history.
“During the competition, I didn’t pay much attention to the others,” Li said. “I didn’t look at the points or the rivals. This is a great result for me, an honor, and it makes me even more motivated to work harder.”
Only .05 points separated the two North Americans. Bacon (276.65) earned her second consecutive silver medal at worlds. And Vallee, at 21, earned the bronze (276.60).
“It’s my first World Championships and I honestly came here just wanting to make finals, no other expectations at all,” Vallee said. “It just showed me that I have so much potential. It is just an amazing way to look at the future.”
Reid placed sixth for Great Britain after giving up her spot in the mixed team event to contest the 1-meter final.
“I saw very briefly, right at the end, that my teammates got a medal,” Reid said. “That was epic to see before I started. I was so happy. We’re super-lucky that we have such depth to our team. I’m just so pleased for my teammates, really.”
Minutes later, Reid was back on the springboard in three-meter synchro event with Heatly.
Mixed 3m Synchro
In the mixed 3-meter synchro event, Zhu Zifeng and Lin Shan earned top scores in each of the five rounds to capture China’s third gold medal of the day by 30.60 points over Italy’s Matteo Santoro and Chiara Pellacani who clung to second place over the last three dives. The real surprise was Great Britain, who captured its second bronze medal of the day – on a clutch final dive that, once again, featured James Heatly. (Heatly was the one who came up with the critical podium points in his last chance in the mixed team event.) His partner Grace Reid was fresh off her 1-meter final and, unfortunately, botched the pair’s second round by holding her pike too long in a simple reverse dive (301B). The score sunk the duo to 11th place among 13 teams. They were still in seventh place until their last dive catapulted them into third. It was also the last dive of the day.
“I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d said I was going to win two World Championship medals today!” Heatly said. “It’s been a really exciting day. I can’t ask for any more.”
Of the last dive (a forward 3½ pike) Reid said, “I knew it was a big ask, but equally, it was go for broke. My mistakes in the first couple of rounds had cost us. It was hard to dig deep, but…I’m really pleased. It’s funny, because the last time the World Champs were here, I was on the podium with Tom [taking silver], and then I had James now. It’s such a treat to be up there again, very nostalgic and just amazing.”