Sonya Palkhivala was trying to win her third gold medal this week, but Lotti Hubert of Germany beat the Canadian on her last dive to take the Girls 1m title (for ages 16-18). Afterwards, Matteo Santoro of Italy won his second gold in two days in the Boys 3m final (for ages 16-18) on Day 5 of the 24th FINA World Junior Diving Championships.
MONTREAL – German divers claimed two junior world medals on Thursday in dramatic fashion. First, Lotti Hubert overtook Canadian favourite on the very last dive to win gold in the Girls 1m final. Then Jonathan Schauer took silver behind Italy’s Matteo Santoro in the Boys 3m final after being down in seventh place. The Boys 3m final was supposed to be a showdown among the three medalists from Tuesday’s 1m event, but the scoreboard – except for Santoro’s steady lead – flipped more times than Simone Biles in her prime. Details below.
Girls 1m Springboard final (Group A – ages 16-18)
Sonya Palkhivala of Canada seemed well on her way to winning her third junior world title this week in the Girls 1m final on Thursday, for ages 16-18. She had been increasing her lead over Lotti Hubert of Germany during the first three dives: from 0.25 points to 1.55 points to 7.55 points. All Palkhivala had to do was nail her final dive, a back 1½ pike with a 2.3 degree of difficulty and hope that Hubert, the next diver, didn’t overtake her with a reverse 1½ with a 2.4 DD.
Alas, it didn’t work out that way. The Canadian’s 203B turned out to be her lowest-scoring dive (36.80 points). And even though Hubert’s last dive was also her least perfect (earning just 51.60 points), it was enough to beat Palkhivala for gold by 7.35 points. Tilly Brown of Great Britain took the bronze.
Afterwards, Palkhivala admitted that the back 1½ pike “has been a really big struggle because I can usually get the takeoff but the entry [is problematic] because that board is so close to the water. It’s [a matter of] inches for the right place to put your feet.” If she had a do-over, she said, “I’d probably place my feet a little bit lower [on the board] and keep my abs tighter hitting the water because I think I Iet it go a little bit which created an arch and made a bigger splash. But it’s okay. I’m happy.”
She still had three medals. Asked where she would put her Montreal stash (gold in 3m, gold in 3m synchro, and silver in 1m), she said, “I have a big drawer in my room where I keep them all. It’s getting pretty heavy. It’s the bottom drawer just to keep it from crushing everything else.”
Next for Palkhivala? A one-week break, followed by the Canadian senior nationals in January. “It’s one of my first and only senior meets,” she said. “Gonna try it and see how it goes.”
For Hubert, the gold medal was bittersweet. “I don’t have a secret [for winning],” she said. “I dive for myself and I dive for my teammate and friend Johanna Krauss.” Krauss was both the 1m junior world champion last year in Kiev, Ukraine, and the 3m silver medalist (in Group B). In Montreal, Krauss was scheduled to compete in three events in Group A: 3m, 3m synchronised, and the 1m held today. But on Monday, the 17-year-old Krauss hit her face hard on the 3m springboard during practice. It was a terrifying scene. “She’s still at a hospital in Canada,” Hubert said, holding back tears. “I know her really well. We are synchro partners so it was really hard to see what was happening.” The day before Krauss’ accident, Hubert helped Germany claim silver in the team event.
Of all the medalists, Tilly Brown of Great Britain had the best performance in the morning’s preliminaries. She was the second-best qualifier which meant she was the penultimate diver in the final. “I was like: I don’t want to mess up now,” she said. With time to kill before the final, she said, “I was walking around having no idea what to do, so I went on my phone a bit, played some cards, not much.” In the end, Thursday’s bronze was Brown’s first junior world medal in her first junior world championships. “I’m 17 so it’s my last one as well because junior worlds isn’t on next year. It happens every two years,” she explained, and the age cap is 18.
Boys 3m Springboard final (Group A – ages 16-18)
Italian gold medalist Matteo Santoro never let anyone come within 19 points of his lead during the five-round final of the Boys 3m event on Thursday. But inconsistency shrouded the rest of the field like a plague. Leon Baker of Great Britain, for example, was in second place after dives 1,2, and 3, but botched his fourth one badly, dropped to seventh place and ended up eighth for the day. Ireland’s Jake Passmore (the 1m silver medalist from Tuesday) had been the top qualifier in prelims but bombed on his second dive in the final which put him in 12th. He made an impressive comeback to finish fifth. American Max Fowler (the 1m bronze medalist from Tuesday), had three shaky dives early and finished ninth. So who ended up on the podium with Santoro? Germany’s Jonathan Schauer took silver, 20.85 points behind Santoro, and Brazil’s Rafael Silva Max de Almeida captured the bronze, after sitting in ninth place after the first dive.
Afterwards, Santoro acknowledged that his healthy cushion of points reduced the pressure of competing on Thursday, but said, I can do better reverse 305B,” referring to his third dive, a reverse 2½ for which he earned his lowest score (49.50). Between Tuesday’s victory and Thursday’s victory, he said, “I just relaxed because I was so tired.”
Silver medalist Schauer was one of the few divers who said he kept an eye on the results during the contest. “After my fourth dive, a 305B, I saw I was in second place. Only then, I thought that with my last dive I could win a medal.” Did the knowledge make him confident or nervous? “Both,” he replied, but “my trainer keeps me cool. He just said, ‘You got it.’’ Schauer trains in Halle, Germany, and is the only diver from that club at these championships. His coach, Norman Becker, was a junior world champion in 10m synchro with 2008 Olympic silver medalist Sascha Klein.
Perhaps the happiest-looking contingent was Brazil, celebrating its bronze medalist Rafael Silva Max de Almeida. The 18-year-old South American said that going into the final, he thought top-6 was a realistic goal. “I never thought about winning a medal in a world championships so I’m very surprised,” he said. “Now I know that if I work hard, I can get to a high level. This is my third junior world championships.
"I started diving at a social program in Brazil. I used to play volleyball, but my volleyball coach said I could be a good diver, so I started diving at 8, started to improve, and moved to another pool. During the Rio 2016 Olympics, I watched on TV. I remember the Brazilian divers competing and that’s my dream, what I’m looking for.”
There will be three finals on Friday in Montreal: Girls 1m for ages 14-15, Boys platform for ages 14-15, and the Boys 3m synchro (for all ages 14-18). After that, there will be two more FINA World Junior Diving Championships 2022 finals and a very cool bonus: the World Junior High Diving Invitational this weekend.