Despatie wins second gold

Posted: Friday, July 22, 2005

MONTREAL — The only thing missing at the coronation of Alexandre Despatie as the king of diving was a crown.

The Canadian thoroughly dominated his rivals for the second time at the World Swimming Championships, winning the 1-meter springboard Thursday night.

''I was just ready for this moment,'' he said.

Virginie Dedieu of France defended her world championship in solo synchronized swimming, the only other medal event Thursday.

Canada took over the top spot in the medals standings with three golds. China, Russia and the United States were tied with two golds each. The Chinese have a leading seven medals overall.

Despatie also earned gold in the 3-meter springboard Tuesday, delighting fans in his hometown of Montreal who created a heavily partisan atmosphere at the pool on Ile Saint-Helene.

''I never imagined I would end up with two gold medals,'' he said. ''After the 3-meter, I thought I had done my job and 1-meter was a bonus.''

Despatie led all the way in beating two former world champions from China and giving his country its third diving gold medal. He won with 489.69 points. Defending champion Xu Xiang earned the silver with 445.68. Wang Feng, the 2001 world champion, took bronze with 445.56.

''Alex is the biggest enemy for Chinese diving,'' Xu said jokingly through a translator.

Joona Puhakka of Finland, who finished third two years ago, was fourth. Americans Jevon Tarantino and Chris Colwill were fifth and sixth, respectively.

His rivals had good things to say about Despatie.

''You see the guy do a good dive and you want to come back and do another good dive,'' said Tarantino, competing in his first worlds.

''It's just really fun to dive against him,'' Colwill said. ''He's a great competitor.''

Despatie stayed consistent throughout the six-dive final. He earned a perfect mark of 10.0 for his fifth dive, a reverse 1 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists.

He received marks ranging from 8.5 to 9.0 for his last dive, a forward 2 1/2 somersault with one twist.

No need to check the scoreboard. He won by 44 points.

He similarly trounced the competition in 3-meter, winning by more than 60 points.

After his latest triumph, Despatie climbed out of the pool, bowed, blew kisses and pumped his right arm as teenage girls infatuated with the stubbled-faced diver screamed.

''The atmosphere was unreal,'' he said. ''This crowd has made this experience unforgettable. These guys are definitely part of my results and I can only thank them for that.''

Winning was sweet relief to Despatie. As the public face of the championships, which were stripped from the city in January, he helped rally financial and fan support for keeping the event in Montreal.

''I had a lot of people saying I had to win to save the games, which was very hard to take,'' he said. ''The mayor of Montreal told me twice he was very proud of me.''

Fourth going into the last round, Wang made one final run at Despatie. The Chinese diver did an inward 2 1/2 somersault with a 3.4 degree of difficulty — the toughest dive of anyone in the sixth round.

Wang hit it, scoring 9.0s to 9.5s to earn the bronze.

The Chinese have won medals in all six diving events so far, including two golds. Wang and teammate He Chong won the synchronized 3-meter springboard.

In synchronized swimming, Dedieu won gold with 99.001 points in the final meet of her career. She cried as her scores were posted, including seven 10.0s — five for artistic impression and two for technical merit.

''I was aiming for 10s across the board. I almost did it,'' she said. ''That's why this was so important to me. I wanted to end with a title, to make my mark on synchro and to give this to my fans.''

Natalia Ischenko of Russia earned silver and Gemma Mengual of Spain took bronze.

In women's water polo, Hungary, Russia, Canada and Australia finished first in their groups and automatically qualified for Monday's quarterfinals.

The defending champion United States routed China 18-2 and will play Cuba on Saturday for a berth in the quarterfinals.

In other elimination matchups Saturday, Italy plays Spain, Greece takes on the Netherlands and New Zealand faces Germany.

Against China, 10 of 11 players scored for the Americans, led by four goals from Kristina Kunkel.

''We needed to work on our shooting,'' U.S. coach Heather Moody said. ''We did a great job.''

In matches Thursday, Russia beat New Zealand 13-1, Hungary defeated Spain 8-5, Italy beat Venezuela 14-5, Greece defeated Uzbekistan 14-4, Australia beat the Netherlands 9-2, Brazil and Germany played to a 6-6 tie and Canada beat Cuba 10-5.

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