SPORTS

Canadians Filion and Benfeito win bronze in 10-metre synchro diving

07/31/2012 11:00 EDT | Updated 09/30/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Roseline Filion and Meaghan Benfeito say fellow Canadian divers Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel inspired them to medal glory on Tuesday.

"It was positive for us that they broke the ice and won Canada's first medal," Filion said after she and Benfeito won bronze in the women's 10-metre synchronized event. "We didn't have that pressure."

The pair were with Heymans and Abel they gave Canada its first medal of the Games after their third-place finish in the women's three-metre synchro.

"Meaghan and I were looking at their medals and we told ourselves that we wanted one as well," Filion said. "That was great inspiration for us."

Filion, of Laval, Que., and Montreal's Benfeito scored 337.62. China continued to dominate the competition, with Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao earning 368.40 points to win gold, ahead of Mexico's Paola Espinosa Sanchez and Alejandra Orozco (343.32).

Mitch Geller, technical director at Diving Canada, praised the bronze-medal duo, particularly their third dive.

"I'd never seen them make that dive, be it in training or competition," Geller said. "It surely gave them a good dose of confidence."

The Canadians had a lead of nearly 10 points over their Australian rivals heading into their fifth and last dive.

"Roseline never follows what's happening in a competition because she gets too stressed out, but I don't miss a thing," said Benfeito.

"On the last dive, I told her just to concentrate on getting her head into the water first and that everything would be fine."

Filion and Benfeito, who were teamed together before the 2005 world aquatics championships in Montreal, were remarkably calm before the competition.

"We told ourselves that regardless of what happened, we would be satisfied because we had done everything we could before coming over," said Filion.

"We were ready and in shape, as never before. We had to dive our hearts out. We were ready. We said there was nothing more we could have done."

Filion and Benfeito, who are best friends outside the pool, finished seventh in Beijing four years ago.

Filion said the past year has been difficult for both divers.

"This was the hardest year ever," she said. "A lot of ups and downs with rough patches in our families.

"Both of us had someone who died this year but training was going really well. We were really positive."

Filion also made a surprising admission on Tuesday — she harboured dreams of packing in diving around the age of 11 and of becoming a Spice Girl.

"Fortunately, I didn't become one because I'm a better diver than I am a singer," she said with a laugh.

But it was the duo of Chena and Wang who stole the show. With stunning precision and dazzling athleticism, the pair led China to another gold medal off the big tower.

The 19-year-olds earned at least 8.5 from the judges on each of their five dives, and even picked up a perfect 10 in the final round for synchronization with a back 2 1/2 somersault with 1 1/2 twists. They sliced through the water side by side, leaving barely a ripple as their tiny bodies disappeared beneath the surface.

China won going away, making the country three-for-three at the London Olympics — nearly halfway to its goal of sweeping the eight diving events.

"They can make mistakes," said Benfeito. "We try to say we can win the gold. But they're amazing divers."

The only mistake came when the Chinese marks for the final round were posted. The announcer initially said "5.5, 6.0" — then stopped as the crowd gasped. She corrected herself and gave out the glittering numbers that secured the gold.

That was about the only stumble involving the gold medallists .

"I felt nervous when I saw others competing," Chen said through a translator, "but when I was on the platform I didn't feel that nervous. I think I was very calm. I just performed as I trained."

Which leaves everyone else performing for silver.

Chen defended her Olympic title in platform synchro by following up the win she had at the Beijing Games with a different partner. She is also the defending Olympic champion and heavy favourite in the women's individual event off the platform.

The Chinese bowed and smiled when they saw their scores, but they clearly knew this one was in the bag. The bigger celebrations broke out in the Mexican and Canadian camps when they realized their teams had earned spots on the medal podium.

"I expected the gold medal," said Wang. "That's why I was so calm during the medal ceremony."

— With files from The Associated Press

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