Russia won Team Event gold as Great Britain’s Matty Lee and Georgia Ward secured the hosts’ first medal of the London 2016 European Aquatics Championships with bronze on the opening night.
Russia’s defending champions Nadezhda Bazhina and Viktor Minibaev showed their class to win gold with the final dive of the competition, scoring 413.30 to clinch a third consecutive European title.
But Lee and Ward held their own in an experienced field to claim a surprise bronze on 353.85 behind Ukraine’s World Championship silver medallists Iuliia Prokopchuk and Oleksandr Gorshkovozov on 396.40.
It had already been a memorable night for Lee, who received the first 10 of the Championships for his second dive, an inward 3 ½ somersaults with tuck from the 10m Platform.
Ward’s final armstand dive left the Brits on top of the leaderboard at the end of their six dives, and after a nervy wait for the remaining five pairs, the Brits’ podium finish was confirmed, landing Ward her second European prize in two years, and a maiden major medal for Lee.
Fantastic to come away with a medal
“That was incredible – it’s fantastic to come away with a medal,” said Ward, who trains at London Aquatics Centre and grew up in Perivale.
“It’s incredible diving here at my home pool in London – it makes you feel more comfortable going into the competition but also having the crowd support you is so lovely.
“We won a medal here for 10m Synchro at the World Series last year so coming away with a European medal in the Team Event as well this year is great.”
Lee added: “I’ve never been in a Team Event before and it’s really good to get things kicked off and blow the cobwebs away for the other competitions later in the week.
“I’m not a springboard diver – I specialise in 10m so it was weird for me to compete on the 3m springboard.
“I only started training my 3m dives during this week I’ve been here but it went alright obviously so I’m really happy obviously.”
Ukraine let slip an early lead
While Bazhina and Minibaev ultimately secured the title with 15 points in hand, Prokopchuk and Gorshkovozov were left wondering what might have been, after letting an early lead slip.
A penalty for Prokopchuk’s armstand dive in the fourth round saw the Ukranians slip from first after two rounds to fourth with one dive each remaining.
And while they saved their best dives for the last two rounds to pile the pressure on the defending champions, Russia’s Minibaev pulled out the highest scoring dive of the competition to secure gold, receiving 102.60 for his back 2 ½ somersaults, 2 ½ twists piked.
And Minibaev admitted it was satisfying to return to form after feeling disappointed with his efforts at February’s World Cup in Rio.
“It’s good to have a competition in good shape at last,” said the Russian. “Back in the World Cup in Brazil our team didn’t perform that well and we were out form there.
“Now it’s much better and we could show our strength right at the start and we expect to earn more titles in the coming days.”
- Click here for full results from the Team Event Final.
Tickets for the European Aquatics Championships – the biggest event to be held at the London Aquatics Centre since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games – are still available either online HERE or on the door for the first five days.
Swimming news courtesy of LEN 2016.