China wins 1st gold medal of world championships

Shanghai: With her superstar teammate in retirement, Wu Minxia is poised to become China`s new diving queen.

Wu and new partner He Zi won the first gold medal of the world championships on Saturday night, claiming the women`s 3-meter synchronized springboard title.

It was Wu`s fifth gold medal in the event at worlds, tying her with Guo Jingjing, her former partner who retired in January after winning six Olympic medals and 10 world titles. Wu`s first four gold medals in 3-meter synchro were won with Guo.

Wu and He`s victory got China started on a possible sweep of the 10 diving medals at the first world championships to be held in the country where diving is one of the most popular sports. China won seven of eight golds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and took seven of 10 events at the 2009 worlds in Rome.

Wu and He led after each round of the five-dive final, totaling 356.40 points in front of partisan Chinese fans who endured wilting humidity at the Oriental Sports Center`s outdoor pool.

Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel of Canada took the silver with 313.50. Australia`s Anabelle Smith and Sharleen Stratton earned the bronze with 306.90.

"We had to pull out a personal-best performance and really go for it," said Stratton, who had left shoulder surgery five months ago that kept her from training with Smith until just two months ago.

Americans Christina Loukas and Kassidy Cook finished seventh.

Wu and He led by less than 10 points after the first two rounds, but they took control with their third dive and cruised through the last two rounds.

They received a perfect 10 for their last dive, a backward 2½ somersault, executed so well that the water barely rippled as they entered together.

He competed on an injured leg, hurting it in training last week, which cost her two days out of the pool.

China`s sixth straight victory in women`s 3-meter synchro tied the record of consecutive wins in one event, held by the United States, which won the men`s 3-meter springboard from 1973-91.

In the synchronized events, the top three finishers, along with Britain as the host nation, will earn a spot for their country at next year`s London Olympics.

The Americans were fifth after three dives, but they botched their fourth and dropped to seventh, where they stayed. Loukas badly overrotated and got out of sync with Cook entering the water.

"Hopefully I can redeem myself on that in individuals," Loukas said.

China is well positioned to win the men`s 1-meter springboard final on Monday, with Li Shixin leading and countryman He Min second after the prelims.

Bureau Report

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