SPORTS

Heymans, Abel win synchro diving bronze for Canada's first medal at London Games

07/29/2012 12:21 EDT | Updated 09/28/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Canada won't have to wait an entire week for its first medal of the London Olympics, and you could hear the relief in Mark Tewksbury's voice.

Canada's chef de mission was on hand to watch Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel win bronze in the women's three-metre synchronized diving event Sunday, putting Canada on the board on just the second day of full competition.

It was a historic medal for Heymans, who became the first female diver and first Canadian summer Olympian in history to win a medal in four straight Olympic Games.

The result takes some of the pressure off a Canadian Olympic team looking for a fast start in London and a top-12 finish overall.

Canada didn't win a medal until the eighth day of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and had just one medal through the first seven days of the 2004 Athens Games.

"A medal, I think, just adds that extra little bit of energy," Tewksbury said at a news conference Sunday. "It takes a little bit of pressure off and it adds a little bit of excitement.

"And everybody gets to see it. We can actually have a medal in the Canadian part of the Olympic village and see what they look like and hold it in out hands. And it becomes very, very real when that happens.

"Can you tell I'm excited?" he added with a laugh.

Assistant chef de mission Sylvie Bernier, who led Canada's contingent in Beijing, called the medal "an incredible boost."

"I told Mark that I was jealous I waited seven days in Beijing so we're really, really happy that it happened on the second day," she said.

Bernier, a former Olympic diving champion, was happy to be on hand to see Heymans make Olympic history.

"Sixteen years at the top, that is quite impressive," she said.

Heymans, who is also competing in the individual three-metre springboard event in London, will decide her future following the Games. The 30-year-old native of St. Lambert, Que., said she might dive one more year.

"I couldn't have ever imagined diving in four Games, or being in this position at 30," Heymans said.

While Heymans is no stranger to the podium, Abel won her first medal after making her Olympic debut at Beijing four years ago. The 20-year-old from Laval, Que., also won a silver with Heymans in the event at last year's world championships.

"I'm really happy right now. . . I don't feel it, but I know that I am," Abel said. "Because the beginning of the year we were really nervous for that moment, I think it takes time to just calm down and just realize it."

World champions Minxia Wu and He Zi of China led from start to finish to take the gold with an overall score of 346.20.

Americans Kelci Bryant and Abigail Johnston captured silver with 321.90 while Heymans and Abel recorded 316.80 points.

The pair's fifth dive kept them on the podium after Italy fumbled its fourth dive.

Meanwhile, the weather dampened tennis competition, postponing Milos Raonic's Olympic debut to Sunday. Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., was set to face Japan's Tatsuma Ito in men's first-round action.

Aleksandra Wozniak of Laval Que., had her singles women's match postponed, as did the men's doubles pair of Vancover's Vasek Pospisil and Toronto's Daniel Nestor.

In singles play, Pospisil hung tough with fifth-ranked David Ferrer of Spain but fell 6-4, 6-4.

In the pool, Brittany MacLean of Toronto was the first Canadian to make a swimming final, finishing seventh in the women's 400-metre freestyle.

Canada just missed out on two other finals.

Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont., finished ninth in the women's 100 backstroke semifinal, nine-hundredths of a second behind the eighth-place qualifier.

Tera van Beilen missed out on the final of the women's 100-metre breaststroke, finishing ninth after losing a swim-off for eighth place against Jamaica's Alia Atkinson.

In other Canadian results:

— Canada qualified in sixth place for the women's team gymnastics final with 167.696. It's the first time a Canadian women's team has qualified for the final. The Canadians were particularly strong in vault, where Brittany Rogers of Coquitlam, B.C., finished sixth and Halifax's Elsabeth Black was eighth. Both qualified for the individual final.

— Veteran cyclist Clara Hughes finished 32nd after spending much of the women's road race in front of the peloton. Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., was looking for her seventh Olympic medal.

Joelle Numainville of Laval, Que., was 12th after losing control trying to avoid another fallen rider with 10 kilometres remaining. Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife meanwhile finished 27th.

— Custio Clayton of Dartmouth, N.S., defeated Mexico's Oscar Molina Casillas in the preliminary round of the men's 69-kilogram boxing event.

— The women's eight rowing team easily won its heat to advance directly to Thursday's final and a showdown against rival United States.

— Michael Braithwaite of Duncan, B.C., and Kevin Kowalyk of Winnipeg advanced to the men's rowing double sculls semifinals on Tuesday with a third-place finish in a repechage.

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