Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon stood Monday on the podium alongside fellow swimmers she has admired for years after capturing Canada's first synchronized medal at a world championship since 2001.
Boudreau-Gagnon scored 96.000 points for a third-place finish in Rome in the synchro solo tech event for her first major medal.
Winner Natalia Ishchenko of Russia successfully defended her gold medal, earning 98.667 points for execution and overall impression. Gemma Mengual of Spain was second with 97.833 points.
"It's really an honour for me to be on the podium with the best swimmers in the world," said the 26-year-old Boudreau-Gagnon from Rivière-du-Loup, Que. "These girls have always been an example for me. I used to watch them on video trying to reach their high level."
Ishchenko swam to the opera notes of Luciano Pavarotti's Sadness, Mengual chose a soul piece with Otis Redding's I Have Been Loving You, and Boudreau-Gagnon used a rock piece.
The solo free and tech events began standing alone for separate medals at the last world championships in Melbourne, Australia, two years ago, when Ishchenko and Mengual also placed 1-2. It is not an Olympic event.
"Everything worked well," Ishchenko said. "Now it's time to start preparing for the 2012 London Olympics.
Mengual, 32, won two silvers at last year's Beijing Games, but isn't sure she'll make it to London.
"I haven't decided yet what I'll do in the future," Mengual said.