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Diving Queen rules 3m springboard preliminary
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Chinese world and Olympic champion Guo Jingjing launched her first step to defend her title in the three-meter springboard at Beijing Olympic Games as she finished first on Friday's preliminary.

Guo, who just claimed gold in the 3m springboard synchronized gold with fellow Wu Minxia on Aug. 10, finished first in the preliminary to collect 373.90 points.

Julia Pakhalina, winner of the 3m springboard synchro in 2000 Sydney Olympics and bronze medallist of the 3m springboard in Athens Olympics, took the second in 358.15. The Russian had been the first in the third and fourth rounds, but Guo surpassed her in the last round.

Blythe Hartley of Canada, winner of the 1m springboard at 2001 and 2005 World Championships, finished third at 350.60.

"The individual event is always my premier," said Hertley. "I felt good today. I performed really consistent. The competition is quite long, and you cannot lose you mood."

"I am happy with my consistence today, and I hope I can maintain it tomorrow," she added.

Wu Minxia, 22, finished runner-up to Guo at Athens and the World Championships in 2005 and 2007, took the fourth place in the preliminary in 343.45.

Though the result was not quite satisfactory, Wu seemed quite calm:"I'm Ok," she said.

China has clear dominance in the event, and all the competitors see the Chinese as clear favorites. The respect for the Chinese verges on hero-worship when it comes to China's "diving queen" Guo.

"She is not my rival. I see her as my idol," said Italy's Tania Cagnotto, third in the event in 2007 Worlds, sixth in the preliminary.

"She is far away from me and I can't beat her unless she misses something. So I would be happy if I finish the competition after the two Chinese."

(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2008)

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