The USA earned one gold medal and two bronzes on Wednesday, the most hectic day of the 24th FINA World Junior Diving Championships. Australia also claimed three medals – including two by Lucy Dovison within about five hours.
MONTREAL – Day 4 was full of surprises. A Canadian duo that had only trained together twice won the gold medal in girls’ 3m synchro. An American diver squeaked into the final of the boys 1m event and secured the bronze behind a Ukrainian and Colombian battle royale.
Germany went from ninth place to gold in boys’ synchronised platform. And one diver - Lucy Dovison of Australia - snared two medals in one day. But not in that order. Here’s a chronological look at Wednesday, November 30th at Olympic Park in Montreal.
Boys synchronised platform (Group A/B – ages 14-18)
The boys synchro platform contest was so suspenseful that four different countries held the lead during the five-round final. Canada led after dives 1 and 2, Australia leapfrogged past the host nation on dive 3, and Mexico took the lead on dive 4 – but none of those teams made the podium. In the end, Germany’s Jaden Eikermann Gregorchuk and Christian Bilke won gold with a back 3½ on their last dive to advance out of the third-place slot. Great Britain’s Robbie Lee and Euan McCabe took silver on their last dive, a back 2½ with 1½ twists to score 72.00 points and come out of fifth position. And Josh Hedberg and Tyler Wills of the USA turned fourth place into bronze by performing the same final dive as the Germans. In the end, the three medalists were separated by a mere 4.5 points.
“Sometimes you have to get a little lucky,” said Jaden Eikermann Gregorchuk. And sometimes experience plays a role. The other leading pairs were much younger. The Canadians were both 14. The Australians were 15 and 16. The Mexicans were 14 and 15. Eikermann Gregorchuk is 17 and his partner, 18. “I know how to deal with being nervous,” he said. “Other people, this is their first major competition."
Britain’s Robbie Lee, 17, on the other hand, attributed his and McCabe’s silver medal to their first two dives, the easy ones with a maximum difficulty of 2.0. “We capitalized on those and got over 100 points so when we dropped our optionals, we didn’t go too far down the leaderboard,” Lee said.
American Joshua Hedberg, 15, said, “Today was honestly not our best performance. We could have done better on many of our dives. It was very close and we ended up with the bronze.” Hedberg’s partner, Tyler Wills, 17, said, “I was overall happy with everything. I had a great time. We both have trust in our training. We know each other pretty well.”
“I know how to deal with being nervous. Other people, this is their first major competition. [Personally,] I kinda ‘shit my pants’ in my first international competition, I was so nervous.”
Girls 3m Springboard final (Group B – ages 14-15)
Anna Lemkin captured gold in the 3m final for girls ages 14-15. She was second after prelims and took the lead in the second dive of the three-round final. She finished with her favourite dive, an inward 2½. Compared to the platform bronze medal she won on Monday, the American said, “Platform is my favourite, so this [springboard gold] is completely unexpected. Also, I was feeling very overwhelmed and a lot of pressure coming into the final but my coaches and family just reminded me that no matter what, I was loved and supported and it didn’t matter what happened, so I should just prioritize having fun and enjoying what I do. I think that helped a lot to alleviate a lot of the stress.”
Top qualifier Lucy Dovison, 15, of Australia, took silver, merely 0.70 points behind Lemkin. “This is my first junior world champs, my first event, my first medal,” she said. “I have 3-meter synchro [later] tonight and 1-meter on Friday. I honestly had no idea [what to expect]. My big goal was to make finals. I didn’t know what my competition looked like because we were in training groups with only like two other countries so I didn’t really know the full extent of who I was competing against. I thought, ‘I’m just going to dive my best and see what happens.’”
Dovison’s 14-year-old teammate Paige Gillam took the bronze. “I decided to have fun in finals, so this [medal] is a bit of a surprise,” she said. “None of the dives in the final were my favourite. I prefer simple dives, but you’ve gotta do hard dives, I guess.”
"I was feeling very overwhelmed and a lot of pressure coming into the final but my coaches and family just reminded me that no matter what, I was loved and supported and it didn’t matter what happened."
Boys 1m final (Group B – ages 14-15)
As the leader after prelims, Ukraine’s Kyrylo Azarov of Ukraine was somewhat favoured to win the 1m final for boys ages 14-15. He didn’t disappoint. Azarov claimed Ukraine’s second gold medal this week in Montreal. But it wasn’t easy. Colombia’s Miguel Esteban Tovar of Colombia had the highest total after the first two dives (of four) in the final and was trailing Azarov by merely 1.5 points with one dive to go. Tovar took silver instead, 7.75 points behind Azarov. Ivor Brown of the USA collected the bronze to go with his team gold from Sunday, but he was the last diver make the cut for the 12-man final.
Azarov, 14, said afterward, “I wanted to win the gold medal. I was fourth place in 3m [on Monday]. I didn’t have a chance to call [home] yet, but I’m pretty confident they were watching online. I have younger brother, 8 years old, and he is diving already. I am grateful to my coaching team who helped me achieve where I am now,” he said, but his coach, Ilya Tselutin, was not in Canada. He can’t leave the country, Azarov explained, “because he is male. They have war right now and he might be drafted. He has to stay in Ukraine.”
Tovar, 14, of Colombia was also planning to win on Wednesday. “Gold medal, that was the expectation,” he said, “but I’m good with the silver. It still counts! And I really enjoyed it. I’m dedicating my medal to my mom and papa and my coach back in Colombia.”
For the American, Brown, bronze was redemptive. “All of my dives in the final were better than the ones I did in prelims,” he said, especially his third dive, a reverse 2½ that had nearly cost him a spot in the final. “I came into the prelim and my mind was everywhere,” he explained. “I started to dive bad and was wondering if I was going to make finals. My coach came over and said, ‘You’re ready. You got this. You deserve to be here.’ It kind of changed my mindset and I started diving better. My coach is my aunt, Jenni Brown. She’s been coaching me my whole life, since I was 4 years old.”
"My coach came over and said, ‘You’re ready. You got this. You deserve to be here.’ It kind of changed my mindset and I started diving better."
Girls synchronised 3m (Group A/B – ages 14-18)
Heading into the fifth and final dive of the girls’ 3m synchro event, Canada was leading Great Britain by three-hundredths of a point, and was just 7.41 points ahead of Australia. But Britain had a harder dive than both nations and was the last among them to go.
Nevertheless, Canada’s back 2½ ended up earning the highest score of the contest (63.84 points) to seal the gold medal – the second gold for Sonya Palkhivala.
“This one feels great,” Palkhivala said. Compared to her 3m victory on Tuesday, she said, “this was more of a fun event because I’m with a teammate [Kate Miller], and got to share that stress with someone else. I’m glad we were able to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.”
The 17-year-olds had only started doing synchro together this week. Palkhivala said, “we trained two sessions in 20-minute increments. It was not a lot.”
Bent-Ashmeil said, “I had no clue” how close the medals were. And while Rollinson had to prepare for another competition on Thursday, Bent-Ashmeil said, “I feel great! I’m finished. I’m happy I’m done!’
But the story within the story was Lucy Dovison’s second medal of the day, this time a bronze with Olivia Roche. Asked how she did it, Dovison said, “I don’t know! I think it was definitely the breakfast I had this morning which was a Nutella bagel and Gatorade. That’s what did it.”
For Roche, the secret was “definitely just staying calm, relaxed,” she said. “It’s hard getting out on the world stage but it was easier doing it beside my best friend.”
“We train together all the time,” Dovison added. “She’s one of my best friends; we’re very close.”
“This one feels great. This was more of a fun event because I’m with a teammate [Kate Miller] and got to share that stress with someone else. I’m glad we were able to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.”
There are only two finals scheduled for Thursday: Girls 1m (for ages 16-18) followed by Boys 3m (for ages 16-18).