Day 3 of the 2012 FINA Junior World Diving Championships proved to be a charm for the U.S. team as they won their first medal of the championships, and it was a gold! Gracia Leydon-Mahoney finished 2.7 points ahead of China's Zheng Qulin to grab a victory on 3-meter springboard and win the first junior worlds medal of her career.
What is really amazing is how this actually happened. Leydon-Mahoney qualified for the finals in eighth, over 40 points behind Zheng Qulin. And when began finals she was in 11th place because of the fact that the voluntaries carried over. So she began the contest in a hole - 16 points behind.
Let me explain. In junior diving in Group A (16-18), the preliminaries consist of nine dives - five voluntaries (easier dives) and four optionals (harder dives). The accumulated total score of the five vols carries over into the finals, so Gracia began the final with 198.2 points as compared to 214.4 for Zheng Quilin, with only her and Myriam Selmani of Canada failing to break 200.
Add to that the fact that eight of the girls (including the top contenders) had more difficulty in their diving list for finals and it becomes apparent that Gracia was in the "zone." That zone included a final dive - a reverse 1 1/2 somersaults with 2 1/2 twists, that scored 8.5's and 9's and effectively won the contest for her on her final dive. You really can't ask for a more exciting scenario!
Leydon-Mahoney's teammate, Samantha Bromberg, finished in 20th and was a spectator for the finals, but will dive again in the synchronized springboard competition with Ezster Pryor.
In the other event of the day, Grayson Campbell made finals in the Group B (14-15) 1-meter competition, finishing in eighth. Christopher Law finished 15th in prelims and failed to advance.
Photo: Gracia Leydon-Mahoney at the 2010 Junior Worlds - Woody Franklin