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Diving – Canadian divers start their match towards the Tokyo Olympics

VICTORIA – Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu as well as Philippe Gagné and François Imbeau-Dulac began their match towards the 2020 Olympic Games with victories Friday in the three-metre synchro events at the Diving Winter Senior Nationals.

On women’s three-metre synchro, Abel and Citrini-Beaulieu, from the Pointe-Claire Diving Club, took top spot with 301.89 points. Mia Vallée and Olivia Chamandy of Montreal followed at 286.08 and Quinn Gariepy and Margo Erlam of Saskatoon were third at 249.00.

Abel and Citrini-Beaulieu paired up after the 2016 Olympic Games and this was their first competition in six months.

‘’We’re proud of our performance but there is still a lot to improve,’’ said Abel, a three-time Olympian who won bronze in 2012.  ‘’One of the big areas we worked on in practice is the quality of our entries. There is also the presentation side where we want to make the dives look effortless.’’

These nationals are part of the qualifying process for the FINA World Championships this summer which in turn are an Olympic qualifying event.

On men’s three-metre, Gagné an Imbeau-Dulac were also dominant notching 415.32 points. World junior champions Victor Povzner of Maple, Ont., and Henry McKay of Ottawa were second at 368.07.

‘’It’s a nice way to start a new season,’’ said Gagné. ‘’We haven’t made any changes to our list, we just want to keep improving the dives we have.’’

The pair have been together for four seasons and placed seventh at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

‘’I was really pleased that we executed six solid dives even though we haven’t competed since June,’’ said Imbeau-Dulac, vying for a third Olympic participation in 2020. ‘’Usually when you have that kind of gap between meets things can get a bit shaky.’’

On men’s 10-metre synchro, Nathan Zsombo-Murray and Vincent Riendeau of Pointe-Claire earned 402.00 points in their first competition together. Ethan Pitman and Laurent Gosselin-Paradis of Montreal followed at 392.16 and Rylan Wiens of Saskatoon and Bryden Hattie of Victoria were third at 370.35.

‘’We started training together three months again and we plan compete together all season,’’ said Riendeau. ‘’We feel we have the ability to be a strong team and take a shot at qualifying for the Olympics.’’

On women’s 10-metre synchro Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay of Pointe-Claire were the sole entry and scored 309.30. They’ve competed together since the start of the 2017 season.

‘’I’m very excited about this season,’’ said Benfeito, a three-time Olympic bronze medallist including two with former partner Roseline Filion on 10-m synchro. ‘’We’ve made some changes and it was fun to put that to the test tonight.’’

McKay injured her arm two months ago in training and she was eager to see how it reacted under a more stressful situation.

‘’The first two dives were a bit tougher on my arm but I was really trying not to think about it and let the training kick-in,’’ she said.

Competition continues through to Sunday at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

Full results: http://www.issmembership.com/diving/live/schedule.aspx