China swept the top two places in men's 1m springboard diving Thursday to close in on Russia atop the medals table at the World Swimming Championships. Away from the pool, the American swim team -- one of the contenders to lead the final medals count -- sized up its chances.
Xu Xiang took the gold and compatriot Wang Kenan won the silver to give China seven medals one less than Russia. All of China's medals have come in diving.
Xu scored 431.94 points, while Wang managed 412,41. Finland's Joona Puhakka took the bronze with 391.26. Russia's Alexander Dobroskok, who won gold in the 3m springboard on Wednesday, finished fourth with 378.45 points.
"We came here to get the good medals," said Xu, the 22-year-old reigning world cup 1m champion. "In recent days, the Chinese team was not doing so well, so we are very pleased to get these medals. I hope it's a good start for China."
By comparison, China won eight gold medals two years ago in the last worlds.
In synchronized swimming, Virginie Dedieu earned France its first medal of the championships. Her gold-medal performance in the solo competition left Russia's Anastasia Ermakova with the silver medal and Gemma Mengual of Spain with bronze.
Ermakova's silver kept Russia ahead of China in the medals table.
Dedieu was the favorite heading in to the competition, and her performance did not disappoint. She earned five perfect 10's for artistic impression and two 10's for technical merit.
"My aim was to perform perfectly, and I consider that the scores show I have achieved it," Dedieu said.
In women's water polo preliminaries, two-time defending world champion Italy narrowly edged host Spain 8-7. In the other Group D match, Hungary defeated Kazakstan 10-9.
In Group A, Brazil beat Britain 11-1 and Canada topped Australia 6-3. In Group B, Japan beat Venezuela 9-3 and the Netherlands tied with Russia 8-8. In Group C, Greece swept past France 7-1 and the US defeated Germany 10-4 to stay undefeated.
The American swim team, co-meet favorites along with Australia, projected confidence and poise in its meeting with the press.
"This event could be the top event in swimming that we have ever seen," American men's coach Dave Marsh said. "I think we are all postured for a thrilling meet."
American Michael Phelps was asked point-blank on Thursday: "Are you better than Ian Thorpe?"
The Baltimore native tugged briefly as his beige baseball cap, smiled broadly and replied: "I have a long way to go. How many Olympic medals does Thorpe have? I don't have any. So I think there's a difference there and hopefully in the next year we can see eye to eye."
Former Australian swim coach Don Talbot said Thursday any comparison was ludicrous.
"We know Phelps is a good boy, but people trying to say he's a greater swimmer than Ian -- that's absolute nonsense."
Thorpe won three golds and two silver medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and then six golds at the 2001 worlds in Fukuoka, Japan. He'll swim seven events in Barcelona -- 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle and the 200m individual medaly (IM).