Synchro diving duo Heymans & Abel win Bronze for Canada

July 29, 2012
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LONDONThe Globe and Mail Sean Gordan

Canada has its first medal of the London Olympics, which is a milestone for more reasons than one.

It’s a bronze to women’s synchronized three-metre divers Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel, who battled back from a sub-par second dive in the five-dive final to claw their way back to the podium.

Heymans becomes the first Canadian athlete to win a medal in four consecutive Summer Olympics.

Abel, who grew up in Montreal, avenges a disappointing showing at her first Olympics in Beijing, when she was a mere 16 years old.

The duo scored a 53.40 with their first dive, and inward flip, and ended the round second behind heavy favourites Wu Minxia and He Zi of China.

But their next dive, a forward somersault, went wrong from the very beginning as the pair weren’t synchronized on their hurdle, and they plummeted to fifth, four points off the podium.

The third dive, a back 2.5-somersault, was better, despite losing some marks for synchronization, they moved into fourth, 5.3 points out of third.

In the fourth round, the third-placed Italian pair got it all wrong and posted a low score, Heymans and Abel came up a few minutes later and moved into third with a well-executed reverse 2.5-somersault.

With the pressure on in the final dive – a tricky forward 2.5-somersault with a twist – the pair coolly hit it.

After looking anxiously at the scoreboard, relief and smiles passed across their faces as they shared a hug.

The result will be especially sweet for Heymans, who is well-acquainted with the Olympic podium Heymans, 30, won a silver medal in the 10-metre synchro event at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney with then-partner Anne Montminy.

Four years later in Athens, the St. Lambert, Que., native won bronze in the same event with Blythe Hartley.

And now, a third synchro medal – with a third different partner – to go along with the individual silver she won in the 10-metre tower in 2008.

The 20-year-old Abel, a former world junior championship silver medalist who has been on the international circuit since she was 15, only teamed up with Heymans full time a year ago.

But their chemistry was instant – they won silver at the Pan-Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Later in the year, they harvested another second-place finish at the World Championships in Shanghai.

And now they’ve cemented one half of the duo’s place in Canadian sports history. Abel will have another chance to burnish her Olympic credentials in the individual event in a few days’ time.