The Beloeil, Que., native won bronze at the world championships after scoring 350.25 on the women's three-metre springboard Saturday.
Ware settled down after hitting her third dive — an inward 2 1/2 somersault she considers the toughest on her program — and she went on beat her previous personal best by eight points.
"These are my first world championships so they would have been memorable anyway but today was a bit of a surprise," said the 20-year-old. "I wasn't expecting a medal. But all the dives I have been having trouble with, I did them well today."
Still, she couldn't watch as Italy's Tania Cagnotto and teammate Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., the only divers with a shot at medaling, did their final dives. Neither scored quite high enough, with Cagnotto taking fourth at 345.45 and Abel next with 339.75.
Ware broke into a big grin when she realized she could do no worse than third, hugging her coaches and teammates.
"I was shaking, obviously," Ware said. "I really didn't realize I had third until I looked at the board. But I knew I had come out of the water with a personal best, so that's really good."
He Zi meanwhile claimed her second title of the world championships and kept up China's dominance at the diving pool.
Already the one-metre champion, He leaped higher than anyone off the taller springboard, setting up powerful spins and twists that clearly stood apart from the rest of the field. The 22-year-old Chinese diver led after every round, finished with 383.40 points, and didn't even crack a smile when she climbed out of the pool after her final dive.
He, it seemed, was only competing against herself.
"I'm very happy to win the gold," she said through a translator. "But I'm not satisfied. I think I could have done better."
China's Wang Han held on for the silver with 356.25 ahead of Ware.
The diving competition at the pool atop Montjuic, with its magnificent view of the sprawling city below, concludes Sunday with the final of men's 10-metre platform.
American David Boudia, the defending Olympic champion, led after a sterling performance in the semifinals. Boudia got things rolling with a brilliant opening dive, receiving one perfect 10 and nothing lower than a 9.0 from the judges for his armstand back double somersault with 2 1/2 twists, barely leaving a ripple as he sliced through the water. He led after each of the six rounds, finishing with 534.40 points.
China's Qiu Bo, the silver medallist behind Boudia at the London Olympics, was out front after the morning preliminaries. He only finished sixth in the semifinals after a poor start, though still good enough to easily advance to the final.
Olympic bronze medallist Thomas Daley also was in the hunt, though he was limited by a triceps injury that required treatment after a shaky performance in the prelims. He looked more sure of himself in the semifinals, advancing in seventh place. The top 12 will compete in the final.
China's He said she enjoyed diving at Montjuic, with the towering Sagrada Familia cathedral sticking out above the other rooftops in the city below.
"The Sagrada Familia is a really pretty place," He said. "When you dive, it is always in the background. I would really like to go there."
But all the medallists shook their heads when jokingly asked if they would like to hang around Barcelona to compete in a new world championship event. High diving begins Monday at a temporary tower — 27 metres high for the men, 22 metres for the women — set up along Barcelona's harbour.
"I'm staying on 3-metre," Ware said. "I would never have the courage to do that."