U.S. breaks through at diving World Championships

July 18, 2009, 5:03 p.m. (ET)

ROME, Italy - Kristian Ipsen (Clayton, Calif.) had never been to a World Championships before. The enormity of the competition was a little unnerving for the 16-year-old, but he had three-time Olympian Troy Dumais (Ventura, Calif.) beside him through it all.

And in the end, the rising star and the 29-year-old veteran pulled through with a silver medal in the men's synchronized 3-meter competition at the FINA World Championships on Saturday.

Dumais and Ipsen scored 445.59 points to finish second only to China's Wang Feng and Qin Kai, the 2008 Olympic gold medalists who finished with 467.94 points. Canada's Alexandre Despatie and Reuben Ross were third at 428.64.

Ipsen and Dumais won the afternoon preliminaries, but Ipsen said the magnitude of the competition started to hit him in the evening finals.

"During the prelims, I felt confident. It was a little cooler and windy, and that's what I'm used to diving in back home in California," Ipsen said. "But I haven't been in a meet this big before, and my nerves really started getting to me tonight. Troy talked to me and started to calm me down, and that helped. It's nice to have someone who's been through this before."

Dumais and Ipsen, who have been training as a synchro team for less than six months, were in fourth place after three rounds and moved to third after the fourth round.

Then came round five and their reverse 3 ½ -- the only dive they scored less than 7.5 points on in the preliminaries. This time, they earned marks as high as 9.5 for synchronization and 8.5 for execution.

"I have to hand it to Kristian. His nerves really started getting the best of him, but in the fifth round, that was the best gainer 3 ½ I've ever seen him do," Dumais said. "This was his to win. I was just his synchro partner. I owe it to him."

The medal is a breakthrough for the United States, which has come up short for a medal in the past two Olympic Games. New high performance director Steve Foley has placed an emphasis on synchronized events as the U.S. looks toward London 2012.

Also Saturday, Haley Ishimatsu (Seal Beach, Calif.) and Brittany Viola (Orlando, Fla.) finished 17th and 18th, respectively, in the women's 10-meter semifinals and did not advance to the finals. Mexico's Paola Espinosa scored 428.25 for the gold in the finals, with Beijing gold medalist Chen Ruolin of China winning silver at 417.60.

On Sunday, Viola and Christina Loukas (Riverwoods, Ill.) will compete in women's 1-meter and Ishimatsu and Mary Beth Dunnichay (Elwood, Ind.) dive 10-meter synchro. The diving events run through July 25.