Despatie, Ross take Canada's 1st 2009 world aquatic medal

Alexandre Despatie of Laval, Que., and Reuben Ross of Regina put in a superb final dive to win a bronze medal in the men's three-metre synchro springboard competition at the world aquatic championships.

Synchro team nail final dives to move into bronze position

Canada has picked up its first medal at the 13th world aquatics championship in Rome.

Alexandre Despatie of Laval, Que., and Reuben Ross of Regina put in a superb final dive to win a bronze medal in the men’s three-metre synchro springboard competition.

Defending world champions and 2008 Olympic champions Qin Kai and Wang Feng of China won gold, while American pair Troy Dumais and teenager Kristian Ipsen took the silver on the day’s last dive.

"I'm still finding it hard to believe that we've won a world championship medal," said Ross, 23. "The key for us is that we both have confidence in our abilities."

Qin and Wang were dominant for most of the afternoon, earning the highest scores on five of their six dives. The only bump was dive number two for which they were judged fourth.

Despatie and Ross might have challenged for a silver if they hadn't ruined their fourth effort, dropping down to 12th for that round. But they regrouped and were terrific on dives five (second highest mark) and six (third highest).

Debut competition for Canadians

"I was a little nervous to begin with, it was obviously our first competition together and it's finals," Ross told CBC Sports, adding he didn't let the error on the fourth dive get to him.

"I just had to move on, you can't let that get you down, and it turned out great."

Despatie said the bronze medal is a sign of better things to come from a team that has only been training together on and off since January.

"The good thing about today, I think, is we know we can do a lot better," Despatie said. "We're both going to make mistakes but we know we can do a lot better. I'm very pleased with my new partner and I'm very pleased with what we've done today."

The medal is Despatie's seventh in a world championship, though the 24-year-old veteran diver said he doesn't use medals as a measure of success. 

"I want to be the best diver I can be," Despatie said. "I've been trying to do that for a long time. Of course, winning medals always feels very, very good and I guess it shows you've put in the work, which is great. All I can say is it's not the end of it.

"I don't want it to be the end so I'm going to keep working very hard to stay at the level that I am."

Benfeito 4th, Filion 10th

Earlier, the afternoon program also saw the first upset of the meet.

Paola Espinosa of Mexico defeated Olympic champion Chen Ruolin to take the women's 10-metre platform event.

Li Kang of China was third, with Canada's Meaghan Benfeito, of Montreal, fourth. Laval native Roseline Filion, the defending Canadian champion, was 10th.

"I'm a little disappointed," Filion said. "I broke the 340-point barrier, which was a goal. But I was nervous and I rushed a couple of dives that I can usually do much better."

Espinosa got off to a poor start in the first of her five dives, finishing the opening round in eighth.

But the Mexican athlete pulled herself together beautifully, putting down the best score for each of the next three attempts and second best in the fifth and final round for the victory.

Chen herself needed an outstanding final dive to take the silver medal after struggling through the first four rounds.

Benfeito was having her own struggles in the opening three rounds, putting in two fifth-place efforts and an eighth. Dive four was superb, tying her with Espinosa, and her fourth-best score in the final round kept her in the top group.

With files from The Canadian Press