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- 24. February 2008.

Jennifer Abel qualifies Olympic spot for Canada at FINA World Cup

BEIJING – Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., earned Canada a second Olympic spot on women’s three-metre springboard on Friday placing seventh in the preliminaries at the 56-country FINA World Cup of Diving.

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Abel needed a top-18 finish to advance to Saturday’s semifinals and gain the Olympic spot. She is assured at least that position because only the top-18 advanced.

‘’I’m very happy,’’ said Abel, a bronze medallist in the event at the world juniors in 2006. ‘’It was my first competition in China, my first World Cup and there was an Olympic spot on the line. I was nervous. But I went one dive at a time and didn’t worry about the previous dive. It went super well. I worked hard with my coach to manage my stress and it’s great to see it paid off.’’

Min Xia Wu of China is the leader at 366.00 points, her compatriot and world champion Jing Jing Guo is second at 328.60 and Christina Loukas of the U.S., third at 327.45.

Abel said a solid start was a key factor in her success.

‘’There’s a good chance a strong first dive will influence the rest of the competition,’’ said Abel. ‘’That gave me a lot of confidence for my second dive, which is my hardest, and my fifth which is the one that has given me the most trouble. I did both of those dives very well.’’

Blythe Hartley of North Vancouver, who earned Canada’s first Olympic spot in the event with an eighth place finish at last year’s world championships, stands sixth at 318.95 and Abel follows at 318.75.

Hartley’s preparation this week was derailed when she fell ill. And the 52-entry field made for a long day.

‘’I missed a couple of dives but still it was an O.K., performance for me,’’ said Hartley. ‘’When there’s that many divers you tend to lose focus. I was satisfied that I found the strength to get through it. The big challenge with such a large field is to keep warmed up for the next dive.’’

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