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September 27, 2000


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Bad day for Bulmer

By BEVERLEY SMITH
Globe and Mail Update

 

Sydney — It wasn't the best day of Eryn Bulmer's life.

The 24-year-old diver from Calgary missed two of her five preliminary dives during the women's three-metre springboard Wednesday, and sank to 20th place overall. Since only the top 18 return for semifinals, it means that Bulmer won't be back. Her Olympics are over.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Canada has a strong diving team, but head coach Mitch Geller figured that Bulmer was the best shot for a medal of all.

Early in the event, Bulmer had been sitting pretty. After the first and second dives she was lying at about fifth or sixth place. Dives No. 3 and 4 were supposed to make the judges' eyes light up.

"Those dives are where she wins competitions," Geller said. "When she does them well, she does them as well if not better than anybody else in the world. That's where it's a real disappointment because she needs to depend on those two dives somewhat. She's so good at them when she goes in straight."

While Bulmer was trying to find her feet, teammate Blythe Hartley of Vancouver, took up the torch, and punched out some top dives, landing seventh overall and advancing to the semifinals. Hartley is only 18.

"Blythe was quite great," Geller said. "She's such a solid competitor. That's what it takes. You can't have those inconsistencies. That's what we've seen in every single event. We see the same thing in every Olympics. It's a matter of being stable, and going through the whole contest and not try to smoke any single one dive. Just be good, not great. (Bulmer) may have forgotten that a little bit."

Bulmer was in tears afterward. She said she felt a little nervous before the event. Once she started, she felt fine.

But when she attempted the back 2 1/2 somersault, in the pike position, something very minute went awry. That's all it took. Instead of getting a rack of nines across the board, Bulmer received 3.5s and 4.5s.

It was a bit of a shock. A little Canadian corner of the grandstand fell silent. The mistake dropped her to 38th place. Bulmer came back more than half an hour later and tried another tough dive, the reverse 2 1/2 somersault, but that, too, ended up with a big splash.

"I think I second guessed myself on it," she said.

One judge gave her a 2.5 for that one. Another gave her 4.5. She finished 37th on that one, which is usually her best dive.

"I missed my best dive," said Bulmer, who realized that even if she hit her last dive, she would be lucky to get into the semi-finals.

"I just tried to go out strong. I figured if I could go out on a good note, all is not lost."

She did. On the last dive, a reverse 1 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists, she earned marks ranging from 7.0 to 8.5 out of 10. It was all she could do.

"I had not much to lose and everything to gain by keeping it together." Bulmer said.

Meanwhile the race for the top spots was between Chinese and Russian divers.

Fu Mingxia of China, who delighted spectators at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics with her gold medals in springboard and platform, is in the lead and Geller says she'll be tough to beat.

She was only 12-years-old when she won the women's 10-metre platform at the world championships in 1991, the youngest world champion diver in history. She still dominates almost a decade later.

In second place is her teammate Guo Jingjing, who won a silver medal at the 1998 world championships two years ago. She was fifth on the platform at the 1996 Olympics.

In third place is Julia Pakhalina of Russia. But sadly, Bulmer won't be able to challenge them this time.

Hartley said she felt "extremely bad" for her close friend, Bulmer.

"You don't know what to say. It's really unfortunate for her. She had a bad day and it just happened to be the Olympics. She's in an awful sitatuion. I really feel for her...She's a great diver. You can't take that away from her.."

Hartley triumphed over the sheer enormity of the task in Sydney. The preliminary event pitted 44 women against each other. Since each did five dives, the event lasted more than three hours.

"It's hard to get down and get up again," said Hartley, who finished second to Bulmer at the Pan American Games a year ago.

"I just wanted to be on my head, and that's exactly what I did. I'm very happy with that."

The struggle isn't over for Hartley, though.

"I'm still nervous because I still have compulsories, which I still struggle with sometimes," she said. "I still have to do those well to get to finals. I'm not really realxed at all right now."

As for Bulmer, she'll watch the rest of the Olympics from afar. Retirement? How can she say.

"It's hard to imagine being retired yet," said Bulmer, who is engaged to marry former diver Neil Barrett, and who has other things in life to comtemplate, such as going to school for a commerce degree.

"I've got to go home and just relax and think about this and regroup," she said.

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