U.S. takes 1-2 in high diving
BARCELONA, Spain -- Cesilie Carlton plunged the equivalent of seven stories into the murky waters of Barcelona's harbor.
When the American resurfaced she had won the inaugural gold medal in the extreme sport of high diving at the swimming world championships.
Not bad for someone who is afraid of heights -- and flying.
Carlton and teammate Ginger Huber finished 1-2 in the 20-meter platform competition Tuesday in an event that swimming governing body FINA hopes will push aquatics into the X-Games age.
Previously, the highest anyone jumped from in a FINA competition was the 10-meter platform in pool diving.
"I'm afraid of heights," Carlton said. "That's why I go very quickly. I don't look down for a long time. But I know that I have control of what I'm doing.
"The toughest part is looking over," she added.
Leaping from a temporary platform with thousands of fans watching from the shoreline, Carlton impressed the judges with her final dive, a triple half pike, and moved up from third after the second of three rounds.
Carlton won gold with a total of 211.60 points, Huber had 206.70 and Anna Bader of Germany took bronze with 203.90.
Only six women competed.
The men's competition, off 27 meters -- the equivalent of nine stories -- ends Wednesday.
There was one scary moment when Diana Tomilina of the Ukraine, who finished sixth, nearly lost her balance when preparing a back dive. Standing at the edge of the platform with her back to the water, she had to stick one leg out over the edge to regroup.
Carlton had no such problems.
"Up here, I'm really in control and aware of what I'm doing," she said. "So I don't really consider it too much of a risk because it's pretty calculated."
The 32-year-old Carlton works in the Chinese gambling city Macau as a performer in a show called City of Dreams in the House of Dancing Water. She's from San Antonio, Texas.
"I would have never thought that I would have done high diving," Carlton said. "My husband was a high diver and the first time he told me he was a high diver I said, `You are crazy. Why would you want to jump off of something that high? That's insane.' And a couple years go by and I'm doing it. So it's thanks to him that I'm doing it.
"He's coached me through and pushed me," Carlton added.
The 38-year-old Huber works at Sea World in San Diego, where she dives from only 7 meters (22 feet). It's a big jump to 20 meters (65 feet).
"So I just added 13 to what I do -- a minor adjustment," she quipped. "I'm the grandma of the team."
Huber competed in the discipline for the University of Georgia, then was recruited by entertainment companies and got into show diving.
"We're kind of crazy and just don't want to stop doing it," she said, explaining why the sport attracts older competitors. "The female (sport) hasn't evolved as much as the male. So you're not going to see the huge dives yet. Some of the older people can still do some of the easier dives."
Nearly all the male divers come from the well-established Red Bull Cliff Diving series, which had female divers compete for the first time this month.
"It can definitely grow," Huber said. "We just need a little bit more help. A little bit more training facilities."