Wed, Jul 20, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Briton takes open water as China’s divers strike gold

AFP, SHANGHAI, CHINA

Silver medalists Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov of Russia compete in the men’s 3m springboard diving finals during the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Olympic hosts Britain struck gold at the world aquatics championships yesterday as China bagged another two diving titles to stand just four away from sweeping all 10.

Britain’s Keri-Anne Payne was overjoyed with her win in the women’s 10km open water event, which ratcheted up hopes she can improve on her 2008 Olympic silver medal at the London Games next year.

With the victory, ahead of Italy’s Martina Grimaldi and Marianna Lymperta of Greece, Payne became Team Britain’s first confirmed athlete for London next year with the top 10 finishers all gaining automatic entry.

“I really wish I could swear right now, but I’m not that kind of person,” Payne said. “To be on the Olympic team, and then it’s a home Olympics as well, I’m so absolutely pleased.”

However, it was China’s unstoppable divers who again snatched the spotlight when they added the women’s 1m springboard and men’s 3m synchro titles to take their total to six at the purpose-built Crescent Lagoon venue.

Olympic and world champion Qin Hai and partner Luo Yutong swept to victory in the men’s event, after Shi Tingmao led a Chinese one-two in the women’s competition — a supposed weak spot for the hosts.

Russia’s Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov took silver, and Yahel Castillo and Julian Sanchez of Mexico won bronze in the men’s 3m, as China’s challengers continued to come up short.

China’s Wang Han was second behind Shi in the women’s 1m, with Tania Cagnotto of Italy finishing in the bronze medal position. However, coach Zhou Jihong said China was not having an easy ride.

“We have grabbed all the gold medals so far, but the competition is really tough, especially in the men’s part,” he said. “Our opponents are hard to beat, so we were not sure of a gold sweep at the beginning. We have to try our best in each dive. Even minor mistakes can cost the medals.”

In the championships’ first open water event, held under scorching sun at Jinshan City Beach, Payne broke ahead of the pack early and stayed there to win in 2 hours, 1 minute, 58.1 seconds, 1.8 seconds ahead of Grimaldi.

“Through the whole race I tried to make it as easy as I could so that I knew if anyone did attack, I still had a bit left in me,” the Briton said.

Australian Melissa Gorman, Argentina’s Cecilia Biagioli, Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto, Jana Pechanova of the Czech Republic, Angela Maurer of Germany, Swiss Swann Oberson and Spain’s Erika Villaecija Garcia also won Olympic berths.

Natalie Du Toit of South Africa, who became the first female amputee to compete in an able--bodied Olympics in 2008, placed 39th. Du Toit, who has no lower left leg, finished in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 27.1 seconds.

Meanwhile, Russia stayed unbeaten in the synchronized swimming competition when they claimed their third straight gold in the technical teams event, finishing ahead of China and Spain.

On day four, China lead the medals table with their six diving golds, followed by Russia with their three titles in synchronized swimming.

Meanwhile, the tournament remains under a cloud with the Court of Arbitration for Sport due to announce this week whether it will impose a doping ban on Brazilian swim star Cesar Cielo, who tested positive for a banned diuretic.

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