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Canada closes its Diving Cup with six podium performances

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Jennifer Lukas, CTVOlympics.ca
5/6/2012 10:06:21 PM
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Roseline Filion, Alexandre Despatie and the synchronized team of Jennifer Abel and Émilie Heymans all earned medals at the diving Canada Cup on Sunday, bringing Canada's medal tally for the competition up to six -- including two gold.

For Abel, of Laval, Que., and Heymans, of St-Lambert , Que., near-perfection was necessary in the women's synchronized 3-metre competition, as the Canadians managed to edge Australia to the top of the podium by just 4.8 points. Abel and Heymans finished with a total of 323.40 -- the pair's best score in international competition so far this year. 

"That score is a really great score," Abel told CTVOlympics.ca after the competition. "Of course we are at home so it means, maybe, that the crowd is helping us, but we did a really great job."

The last time Abel and Heymans broke the 320-point mark was in in February at London's World Cup, where they earned a total of 321.90. The score was good enough to compete with the top divers in the world, and the duo captured the silver medal. Since London, however, the highest overall score Abel and Heymans have been able to muster was 308.70 at a World Series event last month in Mexico.

The difference-maker has been one dive in particular: the reverse 2.5 somersault in the pike position. The pair struggled with the dive for most of the season, and had not performed it cleanly since the World Cup. They executed it well on Sunday, but Abel says there is still room for improvement.

"For me it's been really hard to get into this dive, but I'm working on it right now individually so it will be better for the rest of the year, I'm pretty sure," she said. "I just need to have more confidence on it and it will be great. Last year it was my best dive."

The dive is particularly difficult because of its backward rotation -- as divers somersault, they are unable to see the water until it's already past them. It is almost like diving blind.

"You need to be more focused because your rotation is backward," Abel said. "It's a really complicated dive and it's a hit or a miss, kind of."

Also Sunday, Roseline Filion of Laval., Que., scored 363.85 to finish second in the women's individual 10m platform competition. The silver medal will be a welcome addition to the gold that Filion earned in the synchronized event with diving partner Meaghan Benfeito , of Montreal, on Saturday. Pandelela Rinong of Malaysia finished first on Sunday with 379.70, while Melissa Wu, of Australia, was third with 360.25.

With her score, Filion just missed a point marker that would have helped her toward Olympic qualification. The Canada Cup is one of two final events where divers can earn qualifying points ahead of Canada's Olympic Trials. Two spots are up for grabs in the women's individual 10m, with Benfeito leading the race. Filion, Carol-Ann Ware of Beloeil, Que., and Rachel Kemp of Victoria are in close contention. 

"Nothing's really changed coming out of this competition," Mitch Geller, chief technical officer for Diving Canada, said on Sunday. 

Geller expects the race to come down to the trials, which run from May 25-27 in Montreal. "It's really a dead heat," he said. The last points-gaining opportunity ahead of the trials is next week's Grand Prix event in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Pamela Ware -- Carol-Ann's sister -- also remains neck-and-neck in a race for the final individual 3m spot with Olympic veteran Heymans, while Reuben Ross of Regina, Sask., and François Imbeau-Dulacare of Saint-Lazare, Que., are also fighting for a place in the men's springboard event.

There is no such race for Alexandre Despatie, who is all but untouchable for the other men's 3m position by virtue of his past finishes. In the men's individual 3m competition on Sunday, Despatie captured a silver medal with a total score of 497.20. Although Despatie just missed the entry on his newest dive -- the forward 4.5 somersault in the tuck position -- the score was the Laval, Que., veteran's second highest since he won bronze against the world's top competition at February's World Cup.

Despatie spent most of 2011 sidelined with a knee injury, and is trying to make up for lost time as he prepares for London 2012. He says he is on the right track.

"I am exactly where I want to be I think at this point," Despatie said. "Right now for the past three or four weeks it's been a really, really intense training period. It's the time to do it. The plan is all drawn up right until the games and this week's competition was really about knowing where we're at and that was it."

Despatie also finished second in Saturday's synchronized springboard competition with diving partner Reuben Ross. Pamela Ware was Canada's final medallist for the weekend, finishing second in the women's individual 3m event.

Emilie Heymans Jennifer Abel (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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