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COLUMNISTS

Sun, August 15, 2004

Synchro divers go in the tank


ATHENS -- Canada came to these Olympic Games to make a splash in diving. Trouble was, for openers, our girls made really big, fat, Greek ones. You can usually judge diving by the size of the splash. The smaller the better. These were considerable.

Any medals for Canada in synchronized diving would be bonus in what was expected to be a three- or four-medal haul for our diving team here.

Synchro is a goofy bit of business.

It's not so much that Blythe Hartley and Emilie Heymans were in the tank at diving for openers, able to beat only one team in the eight-nation three-metre springboard synchronized diving event here last night - the host Greeks.

It was the way they dived.

Alex Despatie and Philippe Comtois were ahead of only one team - the host Greeks - after their first dive but battled back to be fifth, which was about all that was expected of them. The problem for Alex is that he doesn't have an Alex to dive with.

Despatie will be fine as the diving heads to individual competition. But the question is if the confidence Hartley and Heymans came here with in the sport evaporated in the heat of the night at the sweaty diving digs.

EASY TO DISMISS THE SPORT

It's easy to dismiss synchro diving as silliness, which is exactly what it is. It was invented so diving could have more than four medals. But the concern here is the carry-over to the individual events where Heymans and Hartley have medal hopes.

"The men's was up to par,'' said coach Mitch Geller of the synchro tower diving event.

"Phil's diving quality is not as high as Alex's. Together they dived as well as we expected them to. They needed to have a drop down from some of the other guys and that didn't happen. They didn't miss.

"When it came to the women ... yeah, I was disappointed.

"They didn't get high marks because they didn't deserve high marks. They weren't going into the water that clean. They were sloppy.''

Again, Heymans and Hartley were considered an outside shot at a medal in this one where the Chinese absolutely dominate. Then again ...

"They looked great this morning,'' said Geller. "This morning they looked like they had a really good chance at a medal.''

Hartley and Heymans scored a 47.40 for their first dive to sit last and then did a 47.40 again on their second dive.

The two moved up to sixth with a 63.90 score for their third attempt, held the position after four and then dropped back to seventh after the fifth and final dive.

'I'M VERY DISAPPOINTED'

"I'm very disappointed,'' said Heymans.

"I'm not disappointed because we didn't get on the podium, I'm way more disappointed because we didn't do our dives.''

She said they were neither synchronized nor diving very well.

"It was a little bit of both,'' she said.

If nothing else, she said it was good to get this out of the way early.

"I've been stressed for two days.''

Hartley, an Edmonton native, says nerves might have been a factor.

"All our dives were not of the best quality,'' she said. "It's tough to say what happens. Sometimes it's just not right for us. I was really nervous. Maybe we got rid of the nerves.''

Hartley said it was tough.

"It's hard to put words to describe it. I'm just sad. We didn't show what we think we could.''

Hartley and Heymans compete in the 10-metre synchro event tomorrow. Canada didn't qualify a three-metre synchro team.

With his synchro done, Despatie didn't bat an eye at the results.

"Canada expected a top-five from us and that's what we gave them. I'm glad we started with synchro this year because it gives you a good feeling for the building and kind of warms you up for the competition.

"My dives were OK. This was not a negative for me.''

He did everything but say, "ah, it's just synchro.''

This event is to aquatic sports what ice dance is to figure skating - bogus.

Geller says Canada is in tough in synchro because our talent pool is so thin.

Despatie and Comtois look like a jockey and a basketball player standing beside each other. And Hartley and Heymans don't really match up together technically.

"Blythe jumps higher than Emilie,'' said Geller. "It's hard to get somebody to jump lower.''

One moment from the competition here last night summed it up. The Brits won a silver medal and entered the pool at totally different times. It's called synchronized diving but they weren't synchronized at all.

"The qualities of their dives were great,'' said Geller.

"They didn't just enter the water at different times, they were barely in the same pool.''


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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