MANCHESTER, England, July 27. IT'S the ne plus ultra of the sport, the Tour de France, the British Grand Prix and the Super Bowl all combined into a single evening's event — the platform diving competition.
And the finals of the men's 10 meter diving competition at the Commonwealth Games here this evening more than lived up to its sterling reputation — and much much more.
England stole the show with gold for Peter Waterfield (690.30) and a silver for oh-so-close Leon Taylor (689.82), leaving probably the world's top diver
– Alexandre Despatie of Canada, who handily won the springboard event last night — relegated to the bronze medal.
Taylor, another product of Sheffield similar to springboard silver medalist teammate Tony Ally, off to a strong start in scoring almost all 9's. He was
clapping with satisfaction when he saw his scores but Australia's Mathew Helm topped that straight away by scoring five straight 10's, moving himself into the No. 1 position.
At this stage Waterfield, from Southampton, was well in contention with a forward 3.5 somersault piked in Round 2. Despatie did the most difficult dive of the final, a forward 4.5 somersault with tuck. But he slightly overrotated, helping spur on the likes of Waterfield in Round 3 when he performed the hardest dive of the Commonwealth Games competition.
Minutes later Despatie executed a consistently high quality dive to take a 16-point lead going into the fourth round, with Robert Newbery of Australia in second and then the English divers Taylor and
Waterfield following closely behind. It was shaping up to be a very tight contest.
Waterfield slightly missed the finish on his fourth-round dive and was followed by a sensational reverse 3.5 somersault with tuck by Aussie Robert Newbery. Leon Taylor was not to be outdone and scored
straight nines with his penultimate dive. Then came a shock with Despatie's fourth dive, dropping his back 3.5 somersault with tuck and only scoring poor 5s.
Going into the penultimate round it was all changed, with Australia's Newbery taking the lead and England's duo of Taylor and Waterfield both in medal position ahead of Despatie in fifth. Sensing possible medal success Waterfield pulled off his best effort in the final, a sensational dive to do at this critical stage of the final.
At this point Taylor then did his toughest dive, ensuring he too was in the medal zone. Any one of the first four going into the final round had a golden opportunity to win the event with Newbery, Taylor, Waterfield and Despatie all jostling for the gold. Waterfield's reverse 3.5 somersault with tuck was his second-most difficult dive and he nailed it to perfection, scoring a ten and a definite medal.
The Manchester pool went wild when Newbery could only manage 7s and they started chanting "England! England!" before Taylor's final dive. It was good. Good enough for silver with Peter Waterfield earning himself a much-deserved gold.
"This is my best event and I enjoyed every minute of it but I couldnt have won today without the support of the team and my family. The best moment was standing on the podium seeing the England flag go up. This is a big boost for British Diving," commented the winner.
The final points score for the men was Waterfield with
690.30, Taylor with 689.82 and Despatie of Canada 689.79
The scoreboard told the story of one of the most exciting and close finals Commonwealth Games diving has known.
* * * * *
Earlier in the women's 3 meter springboard England clocked upyet another medal when Jane Smith earned her second bronze of the Games. She entered the finals in second-place behind Irina Lashko of Australia and was
always stalking her throughout the five rounds of finals.
Lashko's second-round dive, a forward 2.5 somersault piked scored almost all 9s, bringing instant admiration from the crowd and ensuring her lead into
the third round. For her third dive Emilie Heymans of Canada executed a superb reverse 2.5 pike, the hardest dive of the final so far, comfortably maintaining her in second position.
England's Smith retaliated with a back 2.5 somersault with tuck, keeping her in the game but in third place. So on to Round 4 where Smith had to get her takeoff right to keep in medal position. But she over-rotated a bit, earning her only scores around 7.
The only compensation was Aussie Lashko, who then performed what was by her high standards a mediocre dive. Nevertheless this former Russian was still on top at the beginning of the final round. Smith kept hold of her bronze medal position with a different Canadian, Victoria's Blythe Hartley — NCAA 1 and 10 meter champ for USC — now in silver-medal position.
By this third day of the Commonwealth Games the home crowd were practically coming to expect an English medal with every diving event, so it was all up to Ms. Smith's fina dive. The crowd sensed how tight it was and took some time to settle but were not disappointed.
Smith's revers 1.5 somersaults with 2.5 twists was Jane Smith at her very best. Waiting for the scores, Smith looked on tensely but squealed with delight when she realised she had indeed earned herself and her country another bronze medal.
Commenting after tonight's gold, silver and bronze for England, British Diving's Performance Director Steve Foley felt he had witnessed something very special indeed.
"I felt Diving was the winner here tonight. Peter hit the lead in the final dive when it mattered. This was better than the Olympic Games 10 meter platform final. It really was one of the greatest high-dive performances."
The Commonwealth Games swimming competition begins Tuesday, July 30 and among the first-day's races will be the men's 400 meter freestyle, featuring World and Olympic champ and world record-holder Ian Thorpe plus World and Olympic 1500 champ Grant Hackett, both of Australia.
WHILE England monoplized the medals in diving this
evening, there was no surprise in the gold-medal position witht he synchro competition as the Canadian duet of Claire Carver-Dias and Fanny Letourneau won in style, earning a total of 94.417 from the judges.
However, England's synchronised swimming program received a boost here when the red-white-and-blue clad English ladies won their second silver medal in the Commonwealth Games, this time in the duet.
Fresh from her success yesterday in the solo event, Gayle Adamson from Gateshead paired up with Katie Hooper from Reading — and to the delight of the home crowd earned silver with 88.167 points, ahead of Australia's Naomi Young and Ashleigh Rudder's 85.917.
The English pair of Adamson and Hooper based their routine on a dramatic carnival musical theme and achieved good height out of the water with many double-arm strokes to often fast music. The ambitious routine brought with it greater risk but it paid off.
The gold medal-winning Canadian duo synchronised well, were under the water a long time and worked a lot of double legs into their routine.
Just like the English duet they left their fastest, most demanding music for last. This was in contrast to the Australian swimmers who won the bronze.
Although they were a well matched pair they used a lot of single arms, not too much speed and therefore took less risk.
Katie Hooper, now a student in Bath, has trained with Gayle Adamson for four years and has a good sense of the music and choreography to complement Adamson's particular speed and strength in the water. This has been Hooper's second Commonwealth Games.
"We knew the Canadians were the favourites to win so we were really out to get the silver. We would have been disappointed if we hadnt medalled but never knew wha colour it would turn out to be. The Olympics has always been my dream and that's what we'll aim for now."
The gold-medal Canadians are fulltime athletes training eight hours every day with their country's other top synchro swimmers in Toronto. But Canadian-born Michele Calkin, Britain's National Performance Director for the sport takes heart from England's achievements here in Manchester.
"These two swimmers [Hooper and Adamson] could easily get into the top 12 in the world by the next Olympics in 2004. They are very talented and I'm delighted for them. We knew it would be tough and you have to be ten times better than your nearest opponent to beat them as the judges only have a few minutes to see their performance. They did well and never gave up so I hope this will create a standard for British Synchro to move on from to the Athens Olympics."
– Bill Bell