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He keeps his cool to snatch 3m gold

OLYMPIC champion He Chong held off a late challenge from American Troy Dumais to snatch the men's 3-meter springboard gold in diving at the world championships in Rome yesterday.

He led for all but one of the six rounds but it went to the wire, with four athletes still in contention with one to go, and he needed a tough final dive to win with a total of 505.20.

Dumais finished on 498.40 after a superb final effort that moved him into second above Canada's former champion Alexandre Despatie, who took his second bronze of the week after coming third in the synchronised 3m with compatriot Reuben Ross.

China's Zhang Xinhua, who took silver in the 1m springboard behind compatriot Qin Kai last week, came fourth.

The victory may help tone down the talk of a 'crisis' in the Chinese diving team after they missed out on three of the seven gold medals contested here before yesterday's final.

China won all but one of the eight golds up for grabs at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Also, Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia dominated the preliminaries in the women's 3m synchronized diving, putting them in line to win their fourth world title as a team.

Guo, already the most successful diver in world championship history with nine titles, will be going for her fifth straight synchro win on the springboard in today's final. It would be her fourth teamed with Wu, also her partner while winning the last two Olympic titles.

Guo and Wu had the best marks for each of the five rounds and totaled 342.90 points.

The Italian team of Tania Cagnotto and Francesca Dallape was second with 316.20, followed by Russia's Julia Pakhalina and Anastasia Pozniakova with 305.49.

Natalia Ishchenko gave Russia another gold in synchronized swimming yesterday with what she called a perfect performance.

The silver medalist thought she was even better.

Rekindling the debate over judging in a sport where the results often seemed determined in advance, Spain's Gemma Mengual was clearly upset that her performance in the final of solo free came up a half-point shy of Ishchenko's winning total.

"I hope one day the judges understand that people expect fair and accurate judgments from them," said Mengual, who sobbed on the medal stand as she received her silver.

Perfect 10

Performing to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," Ishchenko added to the gold she won in solo technical with a score of 98.833 points, receiving one perfect 10 for technical merit and a straight line of 9.9s for artistic impression.

Russia has won four of five events at the synchro pool. It didn't compete in the free combination.

"I am very happy with my performance," Ishchenko said. "Only at the end of my exercise did I realize I had won the gold medal. My performance was perfect, and this is the result of a lot of training and commitment."

Mengual received 98.333 for her routine to Ray Charles' version of the John Lennon song, "Yesterday." She was especially upset that her marks for artistic impression - all 9.8s - were slightly lower than the ones for technical merit, where she equaled Ishchenko.

"I was more confident than (the preliminaries) and I felt the crowd supporting me a lot," Mengual said. "The problem is still how the judges evaluate our performances.


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