MONTREAL, July 21: Diver Laura Ann Wilkinson and long-distance swimmer Chip Peterson claimed gold medals on Wednesday as the United States finally surfaced at the world swimming championships. As the championships entered the fourth day, it looked as if the Americans might have to wait until Michael Phelps and the all-conquering swim team arrived for the start of their events this weekend before the Star Spangled Banner would be heard.
However, 17-year-old Peterson got the party started early with a victory in the 10km open water event and Wilkinson followed up in the 10-metre platform moving the U.S. to the top of the medal table with two gold, three silver and a bronze.
Once a superpower in the discipline, U.S. divers sunk to new lows in Athens when they returned home without a single medal for the first time since the 1912 Summers Games.
Overhauling their dive programme, the U.S. has made sure their will be no repeat of that embarrassment, having already scooped three medals from the diving pool.
The 10-metre champion at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Wilkinson held her nerve through a rollercoaster competition that produced moments of brilliance and disaster by all the medal contenders.
After leading through most of the preliminaries, the American’s medal hopes seemed to vanish when she the miscued the second of her five final dives to drop from first to fifth.
However, she rallied to claim top spot on the podium with a mark of 564.87, ending the domination of Chinese and Canadian divers who between them had swept the gold medals in all four previous events.
Loudy Tourky of Australia, the bronze medallist in Athens, moved one step up the podium taking the silver with 551.25 while Jai Tong took the bronze with 550.98 to give China its fifth medal from the diving pool.
Canada’s Emilie Heymans, leader after the first dive, had looked poised to earn the hosts their third gold medal in as many days but cracked on her final effort and dropped to fourth.
Earlier, Peterson topped the podium with a winning time of one hour 46 minutes 38.1 seconds, crossing 7.1 seconds ahead of defending champion Thomas Lurz of Germany.
Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria completed the podium by taking bronze after coming home 12.3 seconds behind the winner.
Edith Van Dijk of the Netherlands made sure her career had a golden finish, crossing first in the women’s 10km open water event.
A bronze medallist in the 5km event on Sunday, Van Dijk’s two medals swell her world championship total to 13, including five golds.
The 31-year-old Dutchwoman will have one more opportunity to add to her total in the 25km event on Friday, then will retire from international competition following a World Cup race in October.
Synchronised swimming handed out its first medals on Wednesday, Russia winning the combination event while Japan took silver and Spain the bronze.
Women’s 10km platform
Final: 1. Laura Wilkinson (USA) 564.87pts - gold medal; 2. Loudy Tourky (AUS) 551.25 - silver medal; 3. Jia Tong (CHN) 550.98 - bronze medal
Open water swimming
Men’s 10km: 1. Chip Peterson (USA) 1hr 46min 38.1sec - gold medal; 2. Thomas Lurz (GER) 1:46:45.2 - silver medal; 3. Petar Stoychev (BUL) 1:46:50.4 - bronze medal
Women’s 10km: 1. Edith van Dijk (NED) 1hr 56min 00.5sec - gold medal; 2. Federica Vitale (ITA) 1:56:02.5 - silver medal; 3. Britta Kamrau (GER) 1:56:04.0 - bronze medal
Free routine combination
Final: 1. Russia (Anastasia Davydova, Anastasia Ermakova, Maria Gromova, Natalia Ischenko, Elvira Khasyanova, Olga Kuzhela, Olga Larkina, Elena Ovchinnikova, Svetlana Romashina, Anna Shorina) 99.333pts - gold medal; 2. Japan (Saho Harada, Naoko Kawashima, Kanako Kitao, Hiromi Kobayashi, Erika Komura, Takako Konishi, Ayako Matsumura, Emiko Suzuki, Masako Tachibana) 97.833 - silver medal; 3. Spain (Raquel Corral, Andrea Fuentes, Tina Fuentes, Thais Henriquez, Gemma Mengual, Gisela Moron, Irina Rodriguez, Paola Tirados, Cristina Violan) 97.167 - bronze medal.—Agencies