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Montreal's Benfeito, Gagne win gold in hometown diving World Series


MONTREAL — Meaghan Benfeito and Philippe Gagne both avoid looking at their individual scores following their dives.

However, both of the Montreal natives could tell that they had won gold medals after hearing their hometown crowds' reactions at the FINA Diving World Series on Saturday.

"When you're only six divers and you hear the scores, you kind of do the math in your head and you know where you're situated and where you're located," Gagne said.

"It's really fun," Benfeito said after her performance. "I absolutely enjoy diving in front of family and friends."

Benfeito won the women's 10-metre platform while Gagne prevailed in the men's three-metre springboard.

Following a tough first dive that had her in fourth place, the 30-year-old Benfeito remained in first through her final three dives to take home her second gold of the meet.

Despite a resume that includes a 2015 Pan American Games gold and 2018 Commonwealth Games silver, the three-time Olympic bronze medalist admitted to pre-competition jitters.

"I think it's just because it's my first competition back since the Pan Am Games this summer," she said. "Being at home, that's where I got more nervous because I know my family, friends, the fans, little boys and girls are watching. I just wanted to make them proud."

Russia's Iuliia Timoshinina and Malaysia's Pandelela Pamg won silver and bronze, respectively.

Calgary's Caeli McKay, who won gold in the women's 10-metre synchro with Benfeito on Friday, finished in last place in the semis.

Gagne was still in disbelief following his victory.

"It's really incredible to start with a gold," he said. "Starting the season like this bodes well for the rest of the way."

Gagne had a smoother competition than Benfeito, leading from the first dive to the last.

"I try to focus on my own dives and not let the scoreboard affect how I'm going to dive," said Gagne, who also placed first in the semis.

Gagne's victory was Canada's first individual World Series gold medal since Alexandre Despatie accomplished the feat in 2010.

Jack Laugher of Britain and American Mike Hixon took home silver and bronze, respectively.

Similar to McKay, Francois Imbeau-Dulac, who finished in fourth with Gagne in Friday's men's three-metre synchro event, wound up in last place in the semis.

In the day's final event, McKay teamed up with Vincent Riendeau to earn a bronze in the mixed 10-metre synchro.

Less than ten points separated the Canadian duo from champions Ekaterina Beliaeva and Viktor Minibaev of Russia.

Mexicans Maria Sanchez and Diego Belleza took home silver.

"It's a very positive way to end the day," McKay said. "I wanted to have fun with him and come back strong on some of my dives and show what I'm capable of doing."

Thus far, Canada has won four gold and six total medals so far in Montreal, while Russia has earned two first-place finishes.

Because of the novel coronavirus, the Diving World Series, which normally features up to five meets, has been cut to three events this year. China, a diving power, is not competing this weekend.

Montreal is the first World Series stop, followed by Kazan, Russia and London, England.

The meet concludes on Sunday with the women's three-metre springboard, men's 10-metre platform, and mixed synchro three-metre springboard semis and finals.

Canadians Pamela Ware, Jennifer Abel, Nathan Zsombor-Murray, Vincent Riendeau, and Francois Imbeau-Dulac will all be competing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2020.

Salim Valji , The Canadian Press

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