Wed, Jul 16, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Australia strikes gold in world meet

AP , BARCELONA, SPAIN

Germany's Conny Schmalfuss during the final in the 1m springboard event at the World Swimming Championships in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Irina Lashko gave Australia its first-ever gold medal in women's diving at a major international event, taking the 1m springboard on Monday in the World Swimming Championships.

Lashko, who won the gold in the same event in 1998 representing Russia, scored 299.97 points. Conny Schmalfuss of Germany took silver with 296.13 and defending champion Blythes Hartley of Canada won the bronze with 291.33. It was Australia's first gold medal of these championships.

"It's a first gold for Australia and it makes me really happy," said the Russian-born diver, who has been living in Australia for the past five years.

Australia picked up a silver medal on Sunday on the first day of the worlds with Loudy Tourky and Lynda Dackiw winning the 10m synchronized.

"It's a pleasure to do this for Australia," Lashko said.

Lashko was sixth in the 1m in the last championships in 2001 behind gold medalist Hartley. On Monday, Hartley led through the first four rounds but slipped to third place on her fifth and final dive.

"It wasn't my strongest dive," said the Canadian. "I made a minor mistake at the end and the judges sure spotted it."

China's Li Rongjuan was fourth with 285.27 while Heike Fischer of Germany scored 275.04. Anna Lindberg of Sweden finished sixth with 259.68.

It was an up-and-down day for Lashko. She won the morning preliminaries but barely made it to the final, finishing third in her semifinal. Only the top three qualified from the semifinals.

"It was pretty easy in the preliminaries but I had a little slip in semifinals, but I managed to get back. Then in the final it was a whole new battle," said the 30-year-old diver, who has a 9-year-old daughter.

Even in the final she suffered, bobbing back and forth from second to third place in the first four rounds. She broke down crying as she emerged from the pool following her final dive.

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