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CHINA LEADING U.S. IN DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

If it were baseball, the scoreboard would read China 5, United States 1.

After four days of diving competition at the World Aquatics Championships at the Foro Italico, the world's No. 1 diving power is showing just why it's the world's No. 1 diving power. China has won five medals, including three gold. The United States has one bronze medal.China swept the top two places in the women's 1-meter springboard final and took the gold and bronze medals in men's 3-meter springboard Sunday.

Chen Lixia, 19, despite her left ankle and most of her toes being taped from "old hurt," led four of the five rounds. She knocked off favorite Tan Shuping, her teammate, to win the gold medal on 1-meter springboard with 279.30. Chen was coming off a Goodwill Games 1-meter title last month.

Tan, 17, took the silver with 276 points. Canada's Annie Pelletier, 21, the early leader, edged out American Cheril Santini, 21, of Dallas, for the bronze medal with 273.84. Santini's fourth-place total was 261.72.

Chen will receive $10,000 from the Chinese government for winning a gold medal. Asked why the Chinese are heads above the rest of the world, Chen looked at Tan, giggled and replied: "Because we work harder. We work eight hours a day.

"We never fear losing," Chen said."The Chinese have no secrets. We always train."

During a mid-week rain delay, while most of the divers sat around talking, the Chinese divers pulled out a thick floor mat and worked on their somersaults, one after another for at least 40 minutes.

"We have to work very, very hard, that's for sure, to catch up with the Chinese," Pelletier said. "Maybe our day will come."

The Chinese, funded by the government, do not work. They are called professional students. They run, lift weights and have three-a-day workouts, which include heavy gymnastics training. They are selected at an early age, tested and placed at various camps in provinces until they are ready to compete at an international level, which is usually around age 10, the time most U.S. age-group divers are just getting their feet wet.

The situation is particularly frustrating for the United States, head coach Ron O'Brien said. In the late 1970s, Chinese coaches came to the United States to study diving, particularly Greg Louganis, an O'Brien-coached diver. The Chinese took films and books back to their country and virtually copied U.S. technique.

"They're beating us at our own game," O'Brien said. "They are just starting younger. We're trying to get something going at the grassroots level, but that's not my decision to make."

The U.S. men's team was frustrated in the medal hunt on the 3-meter springboard as well. China's Yu Zhuocheng, 18, won the gold medal off his strong optional dives and totaled 655.44. Russian Dmitry Sautin, 20, the most dominant diver this year in international competition, settled for the silver medal with 646.59. Wang Tianling, the early leader after the required dives, took the bronze with 638.22.

American Mark Bradshaw, 32, of Columbus, Ohio, after a slow start that dropped him out of contention early - 11th after four rounds - worked his way back to fourth with 616.92.

"I just got off to a slow start," Bradshaw said. "You just can't be that far down with your required dives. The judges didn't seem to want to score me when I did do some good dives, so it was hard to get back in it."

University of Tennessee sophomore Evan Stewart, 19, of Zimbabwe, gold medalist on the 1-meter, was 12th with 535.50.

It was Dean Panaro, 23, who is finished with college at Miami and struggling to make ends meet, who voiced the most displeasure over the U.S. system. Panaro, who finished 10th, is not one of the Top 10 divers funded by U.S. Diving, the sport's governing body.

The United States men's water polo team was one second away from elimination from the World Aquatics Championships on Sunday.

Gavin Arroyo of Orange, Calif., scored the winning goal for a 9-7 victory over Germany to keep the U.S. medal hopes alive in a must-win situation. The United States had to win by two goals to get into the semifinal round.

The United States plays Croatia and Spain in the semifinal pool play Tuesday and Wednesday.

Arroyo saw teammate Chris Oeding faking a pass with the ball and then heard him calling his name.

"I'm thinking, `No, no, don't throw the ball to me,' " Arroyo said. "I didn't want any part or expected the ball. It was a really good feeling to see the ball go in. I think my heart stopped before, during and after."

Arroyo was the catalyst on offense, scoring two tying goals before the game-winner. Chris Humbert set up the game-winner with 9 seconds left. He maneuvered the ball into the 2-meter area, where he caused the rejection of Germany's Stefan Seidel. Oeding took the ball inbounds and earned the assist on Arroyo's goal.

Fort Lauderdale Swim Team's Seth van Neerden, ranked second in the world in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events, competes in the 100 breaststroke Monday, the first day of swimming at the world championships.

Van Neerden, despite recently finding out that he has asthma, is in the best shape of his life, he said. His top competition will be Hungary's Norbert Rozsa, ranked No. 1 in the world, and U.S. teammate Eric Wunderlich, ranked third.

Americans Becky Dyroen-Lancer and Jill Sudduth were top qualifiers in the synchronized swimming duet preliminaries. They lead with 99.160 points.