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By Sascha Ryner and Ian Hanson
Australia’s success in the pool at Optus Aquatic Centre has translated through to its diving platform, with Esther Qin and Georgia Sheehan claiming the first gold medal on offer in the sport.
The pair were victorious in the women’s synchronised three metre springboard, after sitting in fourth place prior to the fifth and final round of diving.
Qin and Sheehan, the 2014 world champions in the event, stepped up to the platform and outclassed their rivals, with a 2 ½ somersaults to add 71.1 to their score, to finish with 284.10.
For Sheehan, who placed fourth in the individual three metre springboard event in Glasgow, the thrill of winning gold has made her hungry for more.
“It’s absolutely surreal. I’m still soaking it in. It’s very exciting for us and it was an excellent result,” she said.
Qin, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist followed up Sheehan’s comments, speaking of the camaraderie that helped them cement gold.
“We give each other confidence out there. We just kept telling each other ‘we’ve got this’ and we encourage each other to do better.”
The pair were able to outperform fellow Australians Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith, who were in gold medal position until a failed final dive put them in seventh place, despite the windy outdoor conditions.
Sheehan commented that each pairing competed on an even playing field, and it’s the job of a diver to dive to the best of their ability in competitions like this.
“At the end of the day, everyone has to dive, everyone is in the same boat, so it’s just about who can deal with the conditions the best and that’s really exciting.
“Team Australia, our leaders, our coaches, everyone prepped us so well for this, so we really used that home advantage to get us the gold.”
It was a case of saving his best till last for Melbourne’s Rio Olympian James Connor who nailed his last two of six dives to seal silver in tonight’s one metre springboard final.
The 22-year-old, now on diving scholarship at the University of Indiana, used all his experience from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) meets to keep his cool when it mattered most.
“I have learnt a lot from the regular competition in the regular NCAA competitions, the pressure of delivering at big meets and performing in front of big crowds,” said Connor.
“To come here and dive that well in a Commonwealth Games and in front of this crowd is great – a huge thrill.”
Connor’s second last dive, a reverse 2 ½ somersault tuck (with a degree of difficulty of three), delivered him 76.50 points to put him right into the contest – jumping from fourth to second with one round remaining.
His final dive, a forward 3 ½ somersaults tuck, also with a degree of difficulty of three saw the judges deliver a total of 75.00, putting pressure on the remaining divers to deliver.
He faced an anxious wait as the next four divers failed to reach his score, leaving him in second place with only England’s defending champion Jack Laugher to dive last and hold his nerve to take the gold again.
Laugher, 23, showed why consistency through all six dives paid the golden dividend moving through his list without fault to total 438 points to Connor’s 412.45 with James Heatly (Scotland) 399.25 taking the bronze.
Connor’s fellow Australians Matthew Carter (368.30) and Kurtis Matthews (367.60) finished eighth and ninth, respectively.
Australia’s new look 10m platform diving team of 25-year-old, four-times Games representative Melissa Wu and 19-year-old rookie Teju Williamson can be proud of their performance to finish just 0.36pts away from bronze tonight.
Sitting in the silver and then the bronze positions in the lead up to final dive, the pair who had only practiced their list on three occasions, were pipped by Malaysian pair Mun Yee Leong and Nur Dhabitah Sabri on the fifth and final dive.
Williamson, from WA, only came into the Australian team at the last minute following the shock withdrawal and retirement of Taneka Kovchenko, after scans showed she had spinal complications and she risked serious injury if a dive ever went wrong.
The Australians (307.80) scored 69.12 for their twister and the Malaysians (308.16) 74.88 for theirs to give the Malaysians the bronze behind the other Malaysian pairing of Jun Hoong Cheong and Pandelela Rinong Pamg (328.08) who led all the way for the gold with Canadian pairing Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay (312.12)
“We’re actually really happy with what we came away with today. It would have been nice to come away with a medal, but after only three sessions with that list, it’s pretty amazing,” said Wu.
“We just didn’t know how we were going to go but in diving anything can happen; you’ve just got to go in and give it your best.
“We said to each other let’s go and have some fun and see what happens and take each dive as it comes and that’s what we did.”
Williamson will now go into tomorrow’s individual 10m platform full of confidence.
“It was such a great experience and has given me more confidence for the individual that’s for sure but that has been a great start to the Commonwealth Games for me.”