Calgary divers McCool, Erlam win Grand Prix synchro silver in home pool

Canada's Margo Erlam, right, and Ashley McCool compete during the women's open three metre synchro finals event at the Canada Cup FINA Diving Grand Prix in Calgary, Sunday, May 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY - Ashley McCool and Margo Erlam felt like they had big swimsuits to fill.

The teenage divers from Calgary were the host country's lone entry in women's synchronized springboard in the Canada Cup Grand Prix.

With world silver medallists Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu of St-Constant, Que., not competing because of Citrini-Beaulieu's abdominal injury, the spotlight was on Erlam and McCool in Sunday's final.

Erlam, 15, and McCool, 18, earned a silver medal behind winners Yiwen Chen and Chunting Wu of China at the Repsol Sport Centre.

"I think it's an amazing opportunity that at 15, I got to compete in my first Canada Cup," Erlam said. "Just having the home-pool advantage is amazing and we didn't have to learn to do our dives on new boards."

Erlam and McCool won Canada Games gold in Winnipeg last year.

But the two women haven't trained much synchro lately at Repsol. McCool was a freshman at Arizona State University this past winter and competed for the Sun Devils.

"Only when I came back for the last two weeks we've been training together and it's incredible we actually got a medal here," McCool said. "It just happened that Melissa tore her oblique so we were the only Canadian team competing.

"We did have a lot of pressure put on us by Dive Canada because we were the only Canadian team competing. They wanted us to perform to the best of our abilities.

"That's why our practice wasn't very good. I guess that's why they call it practice. We were able to put everything on our heads in competition and that's what matters."

Anne Fowler and Carolina Sculti of the U.S. placed third.

The Canada Cup was the second of seven Grand Prix events on the international diving calendar in 2018 with 120 athletes from 19 countries competing in Calgary.

Dive Canada chief technical director Mitch Geller projected between six and eight medals from the Canadian team in Calgary. The host team finished with eight — two gold, four silver and two bronze.

A day after winning men's springboard synchro gold with Montreal's Philippe Gagne, Francois Imbeau-Dulac of Terrebone, Que., collected silver in individual springboard.

China's Jianfeng Peng won gold, Ken Terauchi of Japan took bronze and Gagne finished fifth.

Edmonton's Ethan Pitman and Montreal's Laurent Gosselin-Paradis earned bronze in men's synchro 10-metre platform.

China's domination continued with Yu Duan and Zelin Yao claiming gold. Matthew Dixon and Noah Williams of Britain were second. Victoria's Bryden Hattie and Saskatoon's Rylan Wiens finished fourth.

Canada's veteran divers were competing a third week in a row after World Series events in Montreal and Kazan, Russia.

Imbeau-Dulac ranked sixth after his third dive, but scored big on a forward triple-twisting, two-and-a-half somersault on his fourth to vault into second.

The 27-year-old didn't perform that dive, with its high degree of difficulty, in the preliminary round or semifinal.

"The goal was just to get into the finals and then after that, then 'OK, let's spice things up, try that dive and see what happens,'" Imbeau-Dulac explained. "It was obviously one of the best dives of the competition.

"I think it was incredibly smart to put it in even though I was incredibly tired."

Calgary's Caeli McKay was sixth in the women's 10-metre platform after winning synchro silver the previous day with Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal.

Wei Lu of China won platform gold, while Lois Toulson and Robyn Birch of Britain were second and third, respectively.

Canada's dive team is peaking for two events this year. The first was last month's Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. The World Cup in Wuhan, China, next month is the other.

So while the Canadians weren't particularly rested for the Grand Prix, the competition was important preparation for the June 5-10 World Cup, Geller said.

"When the whistle blows, it's our job to perform regardless," he said Sunday. "World Cup is going to be more of a traditional preparation.

"We do still have some work to do and that is working on cleaning things up. What I loved to see was consistency out of most of the divers."

The Canada Cup Grand Prix returns to Calgary in 2019.


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